Robin Muchetu, Senior Reporter
ORGANISATIONS that advocate for the rights of persons with disabilities (PWD) have described the late national hero — Cde Joshua Malinga as a passionate leader gifted with limitless wisdom who dedicated his entire life to improving the lives of people with disabilities.
Cde Malinga succumbed to prostate cancer and was buried at the National Heroes Acre on Friday last week.
Former head of Jairos Jiri Vocational Training Centre in Nguboyenja suburb in Bulawayo Mr Tafadzwa Gochayi said the late Cde Malinga was always available for the centre whenever they needed his services. He said in Cde Malinga, the country and the community of PWD in particular lost a dedicated leader.
“We interacted a lot with Cde Malinga during my time as the head of Jairos Jiri Vocational Training Centre, he was always supporting us in all our graduation ceremonies. He would come even if he had a tight schedule. He was a humble leader with a sense of humour who was available and accessible to his constituency. I remember fondly in 2021, during the graduation ceremony he ordered two customised pairs of shoes which were made by one of the trainees with disabilities. This clearly shows how humble he was. He never forgot the Jairos Jiri Training Centre in Bulawayo,” said Mr Gochayi.
Mr Gochayi said Cde Malinga always had concerns of the centre in Bulawayo at heart.
“Every year he would check on the challenges and progress that the Jairos Jiri Vocational Training Centre would have faced and offer advice. He was an accessible leader with limitless wisdom. Sometimes he would come to the Jairos Jiri Centre and just interact with trainees and persons with disabilities; he was a great advocate of disability inclusion and rights. It is a great loss,” added Mr Gochayi.
Ms Tariro Gurure an inclusion practitioner from Bulawayo who also champions the rights of PWD said Cde Malinga was a leader who believed in the inclusion of PWD in all spheres of life.
“Cde Malinga was a firm leader who believed in an inclusive community, his work was difficult. He was a pioneer of political participation for PWDs and he made several commendable strides. He was a testimony that it can be done. The disability fraternity lost a doer, a man who would bring results. He was a man who encouraged dialogue in finding solutions. I hope those that are left will continue with the spirit,” said Ms Gurure.
Senator Ishmael Zhou who represents persons with disabilities in Parliament narrated how he met the late Cde Malinga.
“I first met Joshua Malinga at Jairos Jiri Nguboyenja Centre in 1977 when he was the national secretary for the Jairos Jiri Association. In the early 1970s and particularly in 1975, Cde Malinga with his colleagues had founded the Council for the Welfare of the Disabled now National Council of Disabled Persons of Zimbabwe. He chaired NCDPZ and constructed Freedom House behind Mpilo Hospital for the organisation. In 1981, Cde Malinga together with others founded the Disabled People’s International which is a global disability rights organisation that he led as chairperson achieving a milestone and raised the Zimbabwean flag high globally,” said Sen Zhou.
He said in 1984, Cde Malinga founded the Southern Africa Federation of the Disabled (Safod) while working in the now Zimbabwe Revenue Authority as a tax assessor. From Safod Joshua Malinga went on to establish a continental disability organisation named the Pan-Africa Federation of the Disabled where he was the secretary general.
“Cde Malinga excelled in taking Zimbabwe to the world and taking the world to Zimbabwe. He also chaired the National Association of Societies for the Care of the Handicapped (NASCOH) in the early 90s. In 2004 he founded the Federation of Organisations of Disabled Persons in Zimbabwe (FODPZ),” he added.
Sen Zhou said all persons with disabilities were grateful for Cde Malinga’s role as an advisor to the President on disability issues as the Second Republic committed itself to the cause of PWDs.
“We shall all remain grateful to our leader and mentor for his work across the world. He is an irreplaceable father and leader and we will always cherish his great contribution as a visionary to disability development work,” added Sen Zhou. — @NyembeziMu