Rumbidzai Ngwenya Features Writer
“Just because a man lacks the use of his eyes, it doesn’t mean he lacks vision,” singer Stevie Wonder once remarked.
And, this rings true for Mairos Mutasa (62), of Mbizo 5 suburb in the central city of Kwekwe, Midlands Province.
Mutasa, is paralysed and is a motor mechanic who has not allowed his disability to prevent him from realising his vision of earning a livelihood using his skills.
He is contributing to the Zimbabwean economy through his craft, showing others in similar circumstances that one can survive using one’s own talents.
Despite the fact that he cannot walk, he is one of the most recognised motor mechanics in Mbizo 5.
It’s a skill he didn’t acquire from college but from a white man he met when he was just 14.
Mutasa’s story, like that of many of people living with disability is sad.
He was born healthy in 1956, but at age two, tragedy struck and he was diagnosed with polio. It left one of his legs paralysed.
Because of his paralysis and inability to walk, he only attended school up to Grade Two.
“The closest school to my home was about 15 kilometres away. My parents could not afford the special care I needed, so I had to stay at home,” he said.
But when he was 14 years old, his fate changed when he met a white guy who was only known as Sunduza and was a manager at Dulys.
Sunduza also owned a farm at Nzonzo near Gweru. After noticing Mutasa’s condition and the challenges he was facing in life, he decided to teach Mutasa motor mechanics so that he could be self-reliant.
“It was an opportunity I could not miss. My condition could not set barriers of what I could do or not, besides I had nothing else I could do than beg,” he said.
Sunduza sheltered Mutasa at his farm where he started taking lessons on how to fix all vehicles at the farm. Of all the workers who were at the farm, Mutasa proved to be the best and later was taught how to drive.
After Independence, Sunduza left for South Africa leaving Mutasa with some mechanical equipment that could help him start a small business. With that, Mutasa moved back to Gweru where he started his own small motor mechanics business.
With the zeal to expand and the need to raise more money, in 1985, he started to work as both welder and mechanic in Mbizo.
“Although I was promised $450 per month, it didn’t turn out that way. The employer took advantage of my condition and paid me less.
“It then took me a year to raise the money I needed rather than a few months I had anticipated,” Mutasa said.
After saving some money, he opened his own garage.
For 12 years he ran the business at a rented place before securing his own in Mbizo 5 where he operates from today.
His workplace has become his home for him and his wife and six children with four still requiring his support.
Even though cars have evolved over time, Mutasa still manages to keep himself knowledgeable to the changing trends. Despite his condition, he can also drive any vehicle regardless of make and size.
“I got experience from Sunduza that one can fix any car regardless of the make and model. He taught me that car engines are the same; the difference between cars maybe that its petrol or diesel powered, but the system is the same and valve timing remains the same. Most professional mechanics come to me for advice and I am happy to help them,” he said.
Mutasa has trained a lot of people who now own their own garages in different places across the country. He has also trained four of his children including girls.
One of his daughters Fortunate Mutasa is now employed as a mechanic in Shurugwi.
Like many people living with disability, Mutasa still faces discrimination from the community.
This, he said, was blocking his progress.
“People always take advantage of my condition and don’t pay enough for my services. Some, when they come to collect their cars, they take it for test driving and never return. I even tried using the help of my employers but nothing has helped. They still take advantage that I can’t go after them.
“It is sad that the people who are supposed to protect and help me are the ones that take advantage of your condition.”
Mutasa also needs a wheelchair to help him move around. In the meantime he crawls from one vehicle to another.
“A lot of organisations and churches have come here several times and promised to help especially with the wheelchair but nothing came of it. Nobody ever returns,” he said.
Mutasa feels that people living with disability are not receiving enough assistance from organisations that should be catering for them
“Most of people living with disability like me are going without things that should enable them to live a close to normal life. They need assistance.
“You see, in my case I could not go to school and imagine how many people living with disability out there cannot access education especially from disadvantaged families”?
Mutasa urged all people living with disability to use what they have to make a living out of it although a little help can go a long way.
“Most people living with disabilities have a special talent but it needs to be recognised and nurtured.”