Cum laude graduate waiting for prosthetic limbs and wheelchair promised 16 years ago

14 February 2020 - 06:00 By Thomo Nkgadima
Tinyiko Gwambe's family says she was promised an electric wheelchair and prosthetic limbs by the Limpopo government when she was nine. Now 24, she is pleading for help.
Tinyiko Gwambe's family says she was promised an electric wheelchair and prosthetic limbs by the Limpopo government when she was nine. Now 24, she is pleading for help.
Image: Thomo Nkgadima

Tinyiko Gwambe, who has excelled at university despite suffering from a rare disability, is appealing for the help first promised to her as a child.

Gwambe, 24, from Tshilamba near Thohoyandou in Limpopo, was born with Tetra-Amelia syndrome. She has no hands and one leg. To write, she balances a pen with her upper arm against her lower cheek by tilting her head.

Despite these constraints, the wheelchair-bound student completed a four-year social- work degree cum laude at the University of Pretoria last year. Now she is pursuing a master's degree.

“Living with a disability has never presented disability to me at all. I was born like this and have accepted myself and can do things able-bodied persons can do,” she said.

But she is hoping for mobility aids so she can improve her quality of life and better look  for work.

Her father, Zacharia Gwambe, 67, said the premier's office had helped the family with transport when she was a child to ensure she could obtain medical treatment at a hospital in Polokwane. He said there was, at the time, a promise to help her get an electric wheelchair and be fitted with artificial limbs.

“It pains me so much that they promised a good thing. Unfortunately her mother died [nine years ago] before she could even see her daughter realising her wish,” he said.

The distraught father said he had been told in the past it was expensive to get help for his daughter and the “government is struggling to raise funds”.

Kenny Mathivha, spokesperson for the office of the premier, said: “If she comes with a proposal it may be looked into. There's a disabled desk in the office of the premier run by people with disability to run and deal with challenges faced by people with disability.

“The office does not have funds for such promises, it relies on fundraising.”

Gwambe, whose university studies were financed by a loan from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme, commutes to lectures on public transport from a room she rents in Mamelodi, east of Pretoria. She relies on friends to help with household chores and other tasks.

“A conscious decision I took about my life was, either I was going to live for the rest of my life being miserable because of my condition or I was going to make the most of it,” she said.


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