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THRIVING AGAINST ALL ODDS

20 February 2018

WHEELCHAIR WARRIOR Bazibi collecting firewood.

“When you are in my condition there is no room for self-pity. You just have to live life to the fullest and to the best of your ability,” these are the words of double amputee Bazibi Osupile of Marapong village 70 kilometres west of Francistown.

68-year-old Bazibi, who lost his legs to cancer ten years ago, has no qualms with his disability and lives his life as normally as possible. He does the cooking, fetches his own water, chops his own firewood, cleans his yard and house, repairs his wheelchair and also looks after his half-blind elderly father.

Being no stranger to hard work he is undaunted by all this. His only regret is he can no longer plough his field and look after cattle. He however takes solace in the fact that he can still keep a few goats and some chickens.

“I have worked hard all my life. When growing up in Sebina where I was born and raised my father taught me the value of hard work. His lessons did me good when I started working in the mines. I was only 23 when I left home to seek my fortune in South Africa,” Bazibi tells The Voice, his weather-beaten face lighting up with pride at the memory.

His first job at the mines was crushing rocks in the Manganese Mines located in the now Northern Cape Province for two years. The back breaking work left him with sore muscles and calloused hands but happy with the money he made.

“Like all migrant workers I came back home when my two-year contract expired. I bought a few cows and an ox drawn plough. I then stayed home for about three years ploughing and looking after my cattle. However the will to work and earn some money drove me back to South Africa. This time I got a job finding unexploded dynamite after the blasting had been done in the underground shafts. It was a dangerous job but an uneducated man like me did not have choice even then,” says Bazibi, who flunked his Standard Seven exams at Sebina Primary School.

In 1980 Bazibi realised he could no longer take the stress that came with his daily dice with death and so he decided to come back home where he worked as a security guard at Spar Orapa until 1993 when he decided to quit and concentrate on ploughing and raising cattle.

However his dream of the soil crumbled nine years later when he discovered he had cancer. The doctor advised that the only way to save his life was to cut off both legs and arrest the spread of the cancer that threatened to ravage the rest of his body.

“I was devastated and it took about five years for me to take the doctor’s advice and have my legs amputated. I took the decision because the pain in the legs had become unbearable and I could not do any productive work,” he says, wincing unconsciously at the painful recollection.

After the amputation, Bazibi’s life improved, though he first had to adapt to living his life in a wheel chair.

“It was hard but I am pleased to say I prevailed. I now live my life as productively as possible. Having gone through more than ten wheelchairs over the years I have become a master at living my life sitting down. I even have a lover,” he says with a naughty laugh as he evades giving details on his love life.

“Looking after the old man is hard. I have to cover all our expenses from my government grant and his old age pension. It’s not enough but at least we do not starve,” continues Bazibi, who occasionally has to sell a goat or a chicken to supplement what they get from government.

He still harbours dreams of doing some vegetable farming in his yard. The only thing that’s stopping him from doing just that is the scarcity of water in Marapong.

“I got a 2500 litre capacity tank from Apex Hardware and my hope is to get help to keep it filled with water,” he says as he advises others with disabilities not to give up on life. “Having a disability is a challenge and like any other challenge must be taken on. I think I am taking mine on nicely,” Bazibi concludes with a conviction and confidence that bellies his condition.

Story by Dubani Wa Dubani | The Voice: Botswana

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