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'Shack, road not for a wheelchair'

Dad of one uses disability grant to keep household

Noxolo Sibiya Journalist
Katlego Seabela has been in a wheelchair since 2018.
Katlego Seabela has been in a wheelchair since 2018.
Image: Supplied

Katlego Seabela, a born-free unemployed paraplegic who still lives in a shack in Mamelodi Phase 2, east of Pretoria, struggles to identify with the fictitious character Tintswalo.

Raised by a single mother who worked as a security guard, Seabela grew up in an informal settlement in Mamelodi with no water and electricity. He matriculated from Stanza Bopape Secondary School, a no-fee school where he would get a free meal during lunch. His mother  could barely afford to buy her children clothes and food. 

Seabela was not always paralysed. The father of one was allegedly shot by police in 2018 in a case of mistaken identity.

“The police were looking for someone and they thought it was me. I was confused because I knew nothing about what they were talking about and we had a disagreement during which I was shot,” he said.

Doctors told him he would not be able to walk again. He was in denial and his life took a different turn. 

He only returned to work after two years of recovery. Even then his body struggled to keep up with the demands of the job as a cashier. “It was hard for me to lift some items at the till. One afternoon after an eight-hour shift, my hands locked and could not work any more, so I had to stop working,” he said. 

He searched for admin, call centre and office work with no luck.

His neighbourhood eventually got access to water but he said the lack of tarred roads made it impractical for him to move around in a wheelchair. 

“I must rely on people to get me around and, in some cases, lift me up because it's hard to move on gravel. Our shacks were not designed to accommodate a wheelchair, so I need help getting in and out of the house.

“Accessing public transport is a nightmare. The issue is not the attitude of taxi drivers but the practicality of having a wheelchair in a taxi. My wheelchair has to take an extra seat, so that means if the taxi only has one seat available, I cannot be accommodated. I also need someone to help me into the taxi.” 

He depends on a disability grant, which he also uses to support his mother and child.

Seabela said while he was aware of attempts by companies to cater for people living with disabilities, more could be done by the government to ensure that public facilities such as taxi ranks and schools are accessible to people living with disabilities. 

“Though I cannot lift heavy things, my hands and brain work well. More can be done to create opportunities for people living with disabilities.” 

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