South Africans with disabilities continue to face barriers that prevent them from enjoying their full civil, political, economic, social, cultural, and developmental rights. Entrepreneurs like Sibusiso Mogale are challenged by discrimination and inaccessible infrastructure.

Sibusiso is a farmer despite being born without hands. Sibusiso was born and raised in Kabokweni, in the Mpumalanga province, without arms due to a rare condition called Phocomelia. The severity and type of this condition can vary, according to Healthline. There is a possibility that the condition will affect one limb, the upper or lower limbs, or all four limbs at once.

“I didn’t realise I was different until I was seven. Even then, I only noticed the difference after others pointed it out. They pointed it out because they had been told by other members that my disabilities might be contagious,” he told TransformSA.

“I spent a lot of time with my grandmother, my mother was still at school then, and she finally found a job. When I had to go to school for the first time, I was sent to Limpopo because there were no schools for me to attend in Nelspruit. In fact, the schools that my mother went to said they couldn’t accept me because of my disability. And they don’t want other kids to laugh at me. They didn’t know how to teach a kid like me. I had to go far from home and only return during holidays. So, I used to spend time on my own,” he recalls.

At age 18, Sibusiso joined a mainstream school where he participated in sports. He participated in athletics, high jump, and swimming. After receiving a sports scholarship for swimming, he travelled to many countries to compete in world championships. Due to high school requirements, Sibusiso could not attend the 2008 Paralympics.

Swimming opened many doors for him, but farming changed everything. Currently, he farms beetroot, cabbage, onions, spinach, green peppers, tomatoes, lettuce, and mealies. His grandmother inspired him to become a farmer. He learned a lot about planting from her as a child. He was named Sibusiso by his grandmother, which means blessing in Swahili. In 2010, Sibusiso’s grandmother passed away before her grandson turned her lessons into a business.

Sibusiso Mogale ( Image: Supplied)

Sibusiso tells TransformSA: “I watched her plant sweet potatoes, mealies, spinach, and other vegetables. But she never planted vegetables to sell, only to feed her family. The biggest factor that pushed me into farming was because once you plant something in the ground and water it, it will grow. I got the fulfillment of watching something I planted grow. Most of the time, when people see me, they see a guy with no hands. For instance, if I drop my phone on the floor and the first thing they want to do is to help me. Keep in mind, I don’t ask for help, but they help me anyway,” he reveals.

Sibusiso enjoys socialising and meeting new people. By being around people more often, he realized he would learn from them and grow. His vision is to expand his agriculture business commercially. He can still go commercial on his 1.5 hectares, but he wants to hire 100 people. Sibusiso enjoys working the soil, but he wants to expand his business.

“I want to supply retail shops such as Pick N Pay, Spar, and so forth. It is a big dream that I have, and it is achievable. I also want to be big on livestock. I want to do aqua farming and also to process honey,” he reveals.

Sibusiso often does voice-overs and motivational talks when he is not farming. He says he began farming with proceeds generated from those two talents. Due to Covid-19 regulations, that source of income has suddenly ceased. Now I have to focus solely on farming. As you can imagine, the income stream regarding farming is not consistent.” 

 Regarding the unemployment of young people, Sibusiso doesn’t mince his words: “Most people like using me as an example. They’d say look at Sbu; he is doing it besides his disability. But let’s be honest, I am blessed to be where I am. Some people don’t even understand how I raised money to start this business. Some young people are living in extremely bad environments. Even if I were in the same environment, I wouldn’t consider starting this business. But there are a lot of young people who are just purely lazy,” he says. “My goal is to empower those who believe it is possible and wake up those who are lazy and not doing much with their lives,” he concluded.

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