Despite South Africa’s liberal and inclusive constitution, many people with disabilities are left feeling alienated and discriminated against. The Pietermaritzburg newspaper “The Witness” reported on discrimination against disabled members of the public in an article dating back to mid 2009. In the article, Julia Denny-Dimitriou  wrote:

ONCE upon a time in South Africa, buildings had separate entrances and facilities for people of different races. The practice was outlawed as discriminatory along with the policy that created it: apartheid.

That discredited philosophy was replaced with a Constitution hailed for its commitment to human rights that is also enshrined in the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act of 2000. Despite this, another kind of apartheid still operates: discrimination against people with disabilities. Inaccessible environments have been called “apartheid by design”.

This points to the fact that whereas the property for sale in Pietermaritzburg is highly regarded, even a tolerant “City of Choice” can still do much to increase the awareness of difficulties encountered by disabled people. This is why well-publicised sporting events participated in by those with disabilities are so important to bettering South African society.

The South African Sports Association for the Physically Disabled (SASAPD) was formed in 1962. It has its offices in Johannesburg, South Africa. Its mission is to give people with disabilities a chance for a dignified life as an athlete. Whether or not the athlete ends up actually competing is not the primary objective of the organisation. First and foremost, it’s about uplifting the spirits of disabled South Africans and giving them a shot at being financially independent through honourable work.

The sports that the SASAPD focuses on are the following:

  • Athletics
  • Archery
  • Adaptive Rowing
  • Boccia
  • Bowling
  • Cycling
  • Dance
  • Equestrian
  • Football
  • Goalball
  • Judo
  • Power Lifting
  • Table Tennis
  • Wheelchair Tennis
  • Wheelchair Rugby

They launched a 4 year program leading to the 2012 Paralympic Games to be held in London this year. They have joined up with government and private entities like DISSA and Nedbank, and earned international support from IWAS, IBSA, and CPISRA. IBSA is the International Blind Sports Federations; CPRISRA stands for the Cerebral Palsy International Sports and Recreation Association while IWAS is the International Wheelchair Amputee Sports Federation.

Originally, the organisation was called the South African Paraplegic Games Association and was run by the Rotary Club in Orange Grove, Johannesburg. It changed its name to SASAPD to include sports and persons with disabilities, and not limit itself to those with spinal cord injuries.

From the period of 1960 up to 1992, SASAPD was not allowed to compete in any Paralympic Games. This was because of the political ban on South Africa’s participation. After the end of Apartheid, it participated in the 1992 Paralympic Games in Spain. In that event, South African athletes with disabilities won 4 gold medals, one silver medal, and 3 bronze. They were placed number 27 overall.

Two years later, the National Paralympics Committee of South Africa (NAPCOSA) was established, and SASAPD, along with 2 other organizations, were put under this umbrella organization. It was a strategic move to allow everyone to participate in international events without difficulty.

For two more years, South African athletes with disabilities trained hard under the leadership and support of NAPCOSA. When the 1996 Paralympics in Atlanta, USA were held, South Africa won 10 gold, 8 silver, and 10 bronze medals. Overall, the South African team placed 15th in the tally of medals. Soon NAPCOSA was sending its Paralympic teams to other countries like Australia to compete in other Paralympic games. The medal results were even more impressive with 13 gold and bronze medals and 12 silver medals.

By 2001, NAPCOSA was incorporated into a new organization, DISSA, under the supervision of the Ministry of Sports and Recreation. DISSA organized all South African athletes with disabilities under 3 categories: High Performance, Talent Identification and Development, and Administration. By 2005, the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC) was formed and took over the reins of being the recognized South African National Paralympics Committee.

As you can see, there has been a gradual evolution of organisations that held as their primary objective the plan to instil pride and honour among South Africans with disabilities. Over the years, the core values have remained loyal to Respect, Integrity and Accountability.