DISABLED South African Man Sues Mountain for Discrimination
A disabled South African man who was unable to climb the highest mountain in Africa – Mount Kilimanjaro – has sued the mountain for discrimination.
Thuthuka Mwalilwa, 50, a native of Griquatown, was eager to ascent Africa’s highest mountain in Tanzania, until he found out that the mountain did not have wheelchair ramps.
A law court at the Tanzanian Court of Human Rights in Dodoma has ruled that the mountain had broken the 1990 Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) and ordered it to apologize to Thuthuka.
According to the judge who sat on the case, Justice Mapinduzi, the apology should come in the form of writing to Thuthuka. Also, wheelchair ramps and stair lifts ought to be made available on the mountain.
He also said: “We consider that some of the incidents were so blatant as to be a substantial disadvantage in their own right, but also that collectively they amount to Thuthuka being placed at a substantial disadvantage.”
The Disability Rights Commission (DRC), which backed Thuthuka, said it was a “tear-jerking” case. It accused the mountain of forcing Thuthuka to give up on his goal of climbing it by failing to provide him with the support to which he was entitled.
Mr Mwalilwa told the court that he really wanted to climb the mountain, but as he cannot walk and has to use a wheelchair, he found out that the mountain would not be able to accommodate him. In a mountaineering club of 25 members, he was the only member who was unable to climb Mount Kilimanjaro because the mountain didn’t have wheelchair ramps – an action he described to the court as highly discriminatory.
The panel said the mountain, which failed to appear before the court, offered “no substantive evidence” in the case.
It has been asked to install wheelchair ramps by February next year. Failure to do so would see it been demolished.
Furthermore, the mountain has been ordered to pay $1,000,000 in compensation to Mr Mwalilwa for discrimination.
ScreLife.Com’s correspondent in Tanzania, Zuwena Akukweti, caught up with Thuthuka to find out how he feels after the court’s pronouncement.
He said “I’m elated by the court’s verdict. I really want to be the first disabled man on earth to climb the highest mountain in Africa. It is my dream to be in Guinness Book of Records. I urge all my fellow disabled brothers and sisters to take legal actions against anybody/thing that discriminates against them.”