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Wheelchair speedster rides the fame

Polite Maphorisa may be wheelchair bound but that hasn't stopped him from pulling a daredevil move by hitching a ride from the back of a moving truck.

The 21-year-old homeless man set social media ablaze after he was filmed holding on to a speeding truck.

Sowetan tracked him down in Pretoria central at an intersection where he usually begs from motorists. Maphorisa was quick to laugh off his newfound fame.

"Everybody has been showing me the video. I didn't even know that people were recording me."

Maphorisa said he did not do the stunt for thrills. He said it's sometimes the most practical way of getting around.

"Every day I ask people for donations at robots and at times I go as far as from town to Menlyn, which is about 20km [away], so it's a long distance to travel by wheelchair," he said. "I don't do it every day. I usually hold on to the tow bar of a car that I know and where I can see that we won't be going at a high speed.

"When I'm finished at that robot, I just wait for the robot to go green and then I hold on to the tow bar."

A wheelchair-bound man was captured hurtling down a busy road at a high speed while holding on to the back of a truck.with his right arm. The incident reportedly took place near Pretoria where a man driving along the road saw the event unfold and recorded it.

The Zimbabwean-born Maphorisa has never been able to walk since he contracted polio as an infant, which affected his muscles.

"I am from Beitbridge Section 8, which is far away from the clinic. So my mother was not able to take me for polio vaccination," he said.

"I have been on a wheelchair all my life. That's why I can spin it and do doughnuts like it's a car, it's a part of me."

He dropped out of school at Grade 7 as it was difficult not being at a special-needs school.

Maphorisa left home in 2008 aged 11 to seek out his own path in Polokwane because he no longer wanted to be restricted.

"I have an older sister and brother who are able bodied. I left home and told my family I want to do my own thing. I got lifts to get to Polokwane.

"It was not easy because it was my first experience sleeping in the streets. But I got used to it."

He now stays at an informal settlement in Salvokop near the Pretoria CBD.

He modified his wheelchair by welding it together with parts of a bicycle and turned it into a sort of a tricycle.

Maphorisa designed the wheelchair himself and has made a few for others as well.

He sleeps on the benches along with about 20 other squatters in a shared shelter.

True to his nature, he adjusted and even became fluent in most of the local languages.

"I am Shona and I could also speak IsiNdebele. Since my time in SA, I've learnt all the languages. It's only Afrikaans that gives me a hard time."

In the streets of Pretoria, where he moved to in 2015, he is a popular figure among hawkers, taxi drivers and residents.

Maphorisa alternates from sharing a laugh with passers-by in Venda to talking about how his day went with another mixing Pedi and Zulu.

Around town, every second person is either greeting him or staring at his eye-catching wheelchair.

His dream is to own a business where he can manufacture modified wheelchairs.

"I am very good with my hands. I want to start a business. My other interest is learning to become a mechanic for scooters and bikes."

After knocking off at dusk, Maphorisa spends much of time with his friend, Admire Zhou, who works as a vendor near Bosman Station, dreaming of a better life.

"I wish somebody can help him start his wheelchair business," Zhou said.

"Polite can do many things that people who walk cannot do. He doesn't sit around feeling sorry from himself."

Since his new-found fame, has he found a girlfriend?

"Eish, it's been many years since I've had a girlfriend. A relationship requires time and I don't have it because I'm always out hustling."

But Maphorisa is more than a stuntman. He said he is just a regular guy who has not allowed the condition he was born with to stop him from flying.

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