68-year-old refuses to be cowed by disability

Source: 68-year-old refuses to be cowed by disability | Herald (Opinion)

Mr Gaura rides his bicycle from Chirimanyemba Village in Ward 1, Zvimba District using the remaining right leg for more than 8km

Conrad Mupesa

Mashonaland West Bureau

They say when life hands you lemons, turn them into lemonade. True to these words, a 68-year-old Zvimba man, Bothwell Gaura has defied life challenges and is making a name for himself at Murombedzi Business Centre and surrounding areas.

He is among at least one million people that have some form of disability in Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe is a state party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) of people that have been disabled by chronic diseases, including cancer and diabetes.

A former motor mechanic, Mr Gaura who lost one of his legs to cancer six years ago, is making a living and fending for his wife and four grandchildren through repairing sewing machines and bicycles.

While many of his age usually hang their boots and await Government’s food aid and handouts from well-wishers, Gaura rides his bicycle from Chirimanyemba Village in Ward 1, Zvimba District using the remaining right leg for more than 8km in search of clients.

As he rides his bicycle, the old man is also faced with challenges of balancing the handlebars, especially on hilly areas, but this has never deterred him from a harsh life journey that he embarked on, more than five years ago.

While this reporter was fascinated and perhaps touched by the way he rode the bicycle, the man is a regular at Murombedzi shopping centre where he spends most of his time with people now used to his new-normal.

Sekuru Gaura said although he lost his leg to cancer, he refused to be enslaved by his condition.

“I lost my limb to cancer in 2015 after I had battled with the disease for a long time. I tried all avenues to get cured but all was in vain.

After losing my leg, it was a situation of accepting what was now there and moving on. I could not keep on wallowing as I am the man of the house and a breadwinner,” he said.

He also narrated how the unfortunate incident took a toll on his career that had sustained him and his three children for over 48 years.

“The amputation of my leg meant that I could not continue operating as a mechanic. I had to be practical and use my hands to make a living and that is when I started repairing bicycles and sewing machines.

He was once a mechanic, but abandoned the trade due to his current condition.

“I used to repair cars but I can’t manage it with one leg now because the duty requires balance as I perform it while standing.”

Gaura’s story is one that should inspire many and shine as a beacon of hope to many.

“However, due to low clientele, I had to spread my business to as far as a four-kilometre radius, including Murombedzi business centre.”

He recalled how it took a year to learn how to ride a bicycle using one leg.

“It has never been an easy task to learn how to ride the bicycle on a single leg. Yes, I have mastered the art, but still here and there I find myself stumbling and falling.

I wish to have an artificial limb so that I will be able to work for my family. I can’t ride long distances on a wheelchair, can I be able to weed the field on a wheelchair,” he later posed a rhetorical question.

He also challenged people with disabilities to come up with sustainable projects to avoid the dependency syndrome.

He said although he has been working tirelessly since 2016, the money he makes was no enough to take care of his family.

“On average, I charge US$2 per sewing machine depending on the fault. Sometimes I charge US$1 or US$3, and the business is not so lucrative. I may go for a month or two without a client. This is the same for bicycle repairs too.”

Despite this, he envisages raising enough money to acquire an artificial limb that will make his daily hustles easy.

Sekuru Gaura is also hopeful that he will get assistance from the Government or any other well-wisher as he now faces yet another inevitable phenomenon; aging.

The enthusiasm to provide for his family has remained essential, but an unfortunate reality of him being in the twilight zone will soon ground him at his homestead until the end of time.

“If I manage to get an artificial limb, I will be able to do other activities, including weeding and even repairing motor vehicles. It will also be easy for me to walk as riding the bicycle on one leg seems to be energy sapping and becoming dangerous for me.”

He also pins hopes on the country’s national disability policy launched by President Mnangagwa in June this year.

The policy was developed with support from various stakeholders including the UN, with an aim to address the marginalisation and discrimination of Persons with Disabilities (PWDs), empower them to improve their own quality of life and enable them to contribute towards the national development agenda.

The inclusion of PWDs in all aspects of life are also encompassed in the policy thus serving as an all-encompassing policy framework on disability across all sectors, including the public, private and development sectors.

During the launch, President Mnangagwa called for an end to harmful practices, discrimination, marginalisation and exclusion of PWDs from participating in different sectors of the economy, adding that Government departments should mainstream disability issues in their programmes.

 He also called on citizens to stop treating people with disabilities as charitable cases but rather treat them as equals who are capable of productively participating in the building of Zimbabwe.

Provincial social development officer, Mrs Agnes Mutowo said the Government was prioritising vulnerable people including those with disabilities by pushing for disability user-friendly infrastructure, the introduction of tertiary grants among other projects.

She said her department was rolling out massive campaigns to inform people with disabilities of their roles.