Former South African Police Service (SAPS) national commissioner Riah Phiyega has committed to leading the charge on the rights of the hearing-impaired. Phiyega has collaborated with other organisations to host the fifth Silent Walk/ Run. She gave Briefly News exclusive insight into the endeavour.
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Former South African Police Service (SAPS) national commissioner Riah Phiyega has committed to leading the charge on the rights of the deaf and hard of hearing.
In an exclusive interview with Briefly News on the eve of the Safer South Africa Foundation (SSAF)’s fifth Silent Walk/ Run at the Marks Park Sports Club in Emmarentia, Johannesburg, the former top cop spoke at length about the failures of society in supporting the deaf.
In partnership with other stakeholders, including the Neema Foundation, SAPS, and the Correctional Services and Education departments, SSAF has embarked on commemorating International Week of the Deaf.
Phiyega lamented the struggles of the deaf and has called on the mobilisation of a more socially cohesive society by hosting the event amid Deaf Awareness Month in September.
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The SSAF CEO, a role Phiyega has held since being appointed in late 2017, said the criminal justice system in the country needs to be more inclusive in light of the challenges faced by the deaf populous.
"We have seen the challenges deaf people face in accessing the criminal justice departments, especially the local justice clusters when trying to communicate with the law enforcement officials," Phiyega told Briefly News.
The deaf are an integral part of society
"This has led the SSAF to raise awareness on the importance of learning SA sign language and make major services interaction points such as banks, airports, hospitals and police stations sensitive to the needs of the hearing-impaired.
"Deaf people are part of society; knowing and understanding their language is important for reducing discrimination and isolation of the deaf.
"Knowledge and an understanding of the language will provide universal access to all services, including those offered by the criminal justice system."
According to the former Group Executive at Transnet, there are currently “limited digital channels or inter-government interventions" that support the hearing-impaired for ease of interaction within the various environments.
Government needs to do more to support deaf people
"As a case in point, the Department of Basic Education has schools offering education up to matric level, and the SABC offers the only source of TV viewing through some news channels.
"South Africa reportedly has more than four million deaf people [and this needs to change] if we are to be a more socially inclusive society," said Phiyega.
She added that the reception from the general public to the initiative has been exceptional, particularly from deaf South Africans and those who are hard of hearing.
"The community has the opportunity to engage and voice their frustrations and concerns. SSAF, through its partnership with the various security clusters, creates the necessary reach and engagement platform.
Awareness campaigns span across provinces
"Beyond the annual Gauteng event, we have used our footprint to launch similar campaigns in seven provinces involving about 500 youths from various schools," explained Phiyega, calling for reform in the education system.
"Basic sign language should be offered as part of our education. The department talks of offering Mandarine and Swahili, for example. However, they should offer sign language too."
The foundation was established in 2012 by the Police and Prison Civil Rights Union (POPCRU) to tackle the Civil Rights aspects of the Union. Close to 1 000 people from eight provinces are expected to partake in the silent walk.
Local woman applauded for fighting for wrongly accused deaf man
In recent related news, Briefly News reported that a local woman has been hailed as a heroine for her unrelenting efforts to help a hearing-impaired man after he was wrongfully accused of committing a crime.
It is unclear what crime the man was accused of committing, but the woman, Lorraine Hlazana, reportedly fought tooth and nail to ensure he did not go to prison.
Tuning to the #ImStaying Facebook page, a user, @Ke Nna Waga Makgato, gave an explosive account of the events and Hlazana's timely, heroic intervention to save the wrongfully accused man.
"When a deaf man in our neighbourhood was almost sent to prison for a crime he didn't commit, Lorraine Hlazana [pictured] is the one who fought for him," the post started.