Miss SA Disability finalist hopes pageant will open new doors

'I am doing community work to help take care of people of all genders'

Koketso Ratsatsi Community Manager
Mathilda Mamatseane shows us her wooden craftmanship
Mathilda Mamatseane shows us her wooden craftmanship

Despite naysayers in her teen years crushing her confidence by telling her she wasn't good enough, Mathilda Mamatseane, 35, is proving that if something is meant for you, it will find you regardless of how long it takes.

Mamatseane, who was born and raised in Chiawelo, Soweto, was told at the tender age of 16 that she would fail to meet the beauty standards to enter and participate in local pageants.

“I was interested in such contests; however, I heard that I was ridiculous for thinking I could be part of those things. 

“My confidence was crushed after that. I started wondering if there was anything wrong with me. I would have loved to take part in pageants, but I could not anymore because from then I lost my self-esteem. I think I was about 16 years old at the time,” said Mamatseane.

Mathilda Mamatseane working at a polling station during the elections
Mathilda Mamatseane working at a polling station during the elections

Believing that the pageantry experience would have shaped her into a more self-aware and stronger woman, Mamatseane has picked up the pieces and is keeping her eye on the ball by preparing for Miss SA Disability 2024 as one of the finalists. It is scheduled to take place later this year. 

Mamatseane entered the pageant as she uses crutches to walk after she fell and broke her left leg.

Covered in thick plaster for six months, Mamatseane is undergoing physiotherapy and hopes that in the future she can get by as easily as she used to. 

“The most unfortunate part is that I was not born disabled. It is still a new thing for me. I was in Limpopo when it happened, and life took its turn. I don’t know what happened but someone who saw me said I fell on the pavement while walking down the street. 

“My life obviously has not been the same since then. I must walk a little slowly with caution, whereas I was a fitness person before. I now use public transport because I cannot drive anymore and I lost my car and everything I worked for during the Covid-19 pandemic,” she said. 

“I am now a Miss SA Disability finalist, and I am preparing myself for the pageant by doing community work to help take care of people of all genders and our senior citizens. 

“After taking care of my mother, who has been in a wheelchair for six years now, I know the needs of the elderly people because I am experiencing it with my mother, so I am trying to ask for donations to help others who are also taking care of their loved ones.” 

While listening to the radio one day while doing her wood crafting, Mamatseane heard an interview discussing the details of entering Miss Disability 2024. Out of curiosity and confidence, she sent in her audition video.

“I never knew there was such a thing, he was talking about how people with disabilities have limited opportunities. That caught my attention, so I applied and campaigned on social media to get votes.

“I did not expect to get the votes I got; I am so excited. Something told me to not give up, it is not by mistake this is happening. What I understand so far is that it is not just about beauty, it [the pageant] taps so much into who you are as a person, what drives you, your ambitions and potential. It is meant to empower us,” she said. 

Since the loss of her job at a prominent SA bank as an anti-money laundering coordinator, Mamatseane had not seen another job until the Independent Electoral Commission offered her work at a polling station during the 2024 general elections.

She is a qualified and experienced human resources practitioner through her qualifications with Damelin and the University of Johannesburg.

“This opportunity, though it was just for a day, brought so much excitement in me and I now anticipate my next opportunity. I believe it will be a big one. I was at the school [voting station] checking the identification of the people who came to vote."

She said she was satisfied with the way people with disabilities were treated at her voting station.

“I was excited to be part of the people who were working. The fact that I was considered has changed my mindset and I am back to thinking that I can.

“I cannot wait to see what life has in store for me, I hope I win the pageant because I have so much to offer," said Mamatseane. 

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