Each year during the December holidays we traveled to the Qacha’s Nek District, home to both my parents. We spent Christmas Day at my father’s and New Year’s Eve at my mom’s home. We immersed ourselves in the village ways of living. I have fond memories of going to the water well, filling up my bucket and walking back home with it on top of my head, only to reach home with half of it empty and my clothes drenched in water. Balancing a bucket full of water on your head and walking up a mountain is not child’s play.
My maternal grandfather had a younger sister, who had a grandchild my age. We went to the same primary school and well, it’s all love when you have your super-smart cousin in the same class as you because you get to help each other out, and also their family had just returned from living in Denmark, so she was the cool kid, we all admired her. My cousin is a source of inspiration to me, she reminds me of how precious life is, and that no matter the circumstances we have the inherent strength to live life to its fullest.
We were around 10 years old, probably playing dodge ball during break time, just before the bell rang, she asked, “who turned off the lights.” During broad daylight, I wondered what she was talking about, only to realize that she could not see. We all knew that Makhiba couldn’t see well, she wore glasses and had to sit next to the blackboard in class. We knew that but didn’t expect that her sight would get worse.
This is her story:
Makhiba was in and out of the hospital for about a year, in Bloemfontein, a South African, who was one of two of the best eye doctors in the world operated her, she regained a little bit of sight, but then a few months later developed a cataract. She then had to go back to have the cataract removed, and, then there were all kinds of complications after that, including the fact that she had developed tonsillitis. This meant they had to postpone operating on her eye, which then also meant that her eyes were getting worse. By the time the tonsillitis had fully cleared a lot of time had passed, and her sight could not be recovered.
Makhiba missed out on three years of schooling, and ultimately had to go back, doctors advised that she go to a mainstream school to be able to cope in normal society later. And she did. She pursued a Political Science Degree at the University of Cape Town, then a Post Graduate Degree and most recently obtained a Management Corporate Governance Diploma. She has been able to study and work meaningfully, first at Africa’s largest stock exchange, the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, in Sustainability and now in Corporate Governance at the Public Investment Corporation and considers herself somewhat successful in Corporate South Africa. And this is why I see her as differently-abled, she is able to do anything she sets her mind to, it’s just that she does things in her own way.
Her short-term goals are public speaking, she would like to champion her message throughout the world, to change the world for other’s who are like her and is driven by the shocking statistics. According to the 2014 White Paper, Integrated National Disability Strategy, Situation Analysis an estimated 99 percent of disabled people are excluded from employment on the open Labour market.” This is her purpose.
Her message to the world this National Disability Employment Awareness Month is:
“Despite suffering a double retinal detachment at 10 years old rendering me instantly blind, life, with all its travails, is good, woe can’t be me. To bemoan existence as a blind person, I’d not be paying tribute to those who have believed in me and held my hand through life’s turbulences. I would be making a mockery of the real challenges faced by so many blind people unfortunately inhibited by a world, itself without vision.
In a world of adventure and adversity, we choose adventure. As blind as we are, we are visionary. Remove the blinkers and allow yourself an opportunity to see as we do, evenly.