While other blind people like him roam the streets begging, Michael Ramphele runs a spaza shop next to University of Limpopo in Mankweng. Ramphele, who lost his sight after police beat him during an apartheid protest in 1986, supports his family of seven people with the profit that comes from his small business.
Ramphele says he started his business from with his monthly social grant money. He says his business is aiding his family that has been struggling to make ends meet. “I use my grant money to get stock for the business. I also use it to provide food and clothes for my family since I am the only family member with income. Things are better. Since I started a business my family is no longer struggling to get food,” says the 46-year-old former student at Marobathota High School in Limpopo.
However Ramphele’s business has not lacked problems. “It is difficult for a blind person to trade because sometimes other naughty guys come with the intentions of cheating me. Some come to buy with fake notes knowing very well that I won’t recognize it because of my illness,” he says with a disappointed voice.
Though he became totally visually impaired in 2003, Ramphele has always been fighting to make a better life for himself despite the odds stuck against him. “If you are unemployed it is hard to accomplish dreams because money has the potential to a good future.
"I was studying social work at University of South Africa (Unisa) in 2007 but was forced to drop out due to the lack of funds and personal reasons that I could not divulge,” he said.
Ramphele, who hails from the same township as the late former ANC Youth League president Peter Mokaba, says he fought against apartheid but feels his efforts are not appreciated. “Most people who fought for liberation do not enjoy their prolific efforts as they are shunned by the new generation and remain marginalized.”
Copyright © 2009 Reginald Makgoba