Wheelchair-bound Durban man tastes freedom at last as elevator company fixes lift

Sibusiso Zondi feels like a free man after the lift in his building was fixed.
Sibusiso Zondi feels like a free man after the lift in his building was fixed.
Image: Sandile Ndlovu

The thing that wheelchair-bound Sibusiso Zondi - who was literally held hostage in his flat because the building elevator hadn't worked since 2011 - feared most was what would happen to him if a fire broke out in the building. 

“If there is a fire, I used to think how would I be able to get down, because the lift doesn’t work,” said Zondi, who lives on the eighth floor.

But on Wednesday, the fears of Zondi, 34, who was born with cerebral palsy, a disorder that affects movement and muscle tone, were cast aside when a lift manufacturing company refurbished the building's elevator.

On Thursday, IFE Elevators held an official ribbon cutting ceremony, with Zondi as its chief guest.

“I want to feel the rain, I want to go to Suncoast. Now I will be able to go outside, I can push myself all the way to West street,” said an excited Zondi.

IFE reached out to him in August, after SowetanLIVE's sister publication TimesLIVE recorded Zondi’s first trip out of the flat since 2017, when a group of Durban emergency personnel staff physically carried him down the eight flights of stairs and helped fulfil his wish to go to the beach.

The story was also shared on popular radio station 702.

Zondi’s mother, Zamajali Ngcobo, was beside herself as she watched her son enter the lift. Ngcobo thought back to the day a tremor hit Durban in October, a day she felt helpless.

“We looked outside and saw everyone standing at the bottom and I lost it. I thought, how will I get downstairs with my son. I left him outside and went down, but then I thought how can I leave my child, so I turned around and went back because if he died I would die with him,” said Ngcobo.

At the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Zondi reminded the crowd of residents that had gathered to witness the relaunch of the working lift, that it was for everyone.

“This lift is not for me, it's for everyone, so people must not get the idea that this is for me alone. I am thankful to God almighty,” he said.