A young disabled Zimbabwean at university in the United States is home on school holiday and showing his countrymen that disability does not mean inability.
Born with osteogenesis imperfecta, a disease that causes weakened and brittle bones, Maburutse, 24, has never been able to walk.
In his village in rural Masvingo, he was often taunted as the “cripple.” But despite the widespread belief that children with disabilities will grow up to be useless, his parents decided to send him to school, although at an older age than normal, and he discovered a burning ambition to beat all the odds against him.
After completing his primary education at Jairos Jiri in Harare, and his O-Levels at King George VI in Bulawayo on bursaries, he won a scholarship to Petra High School, a private school in Bulawayo, where he completed his A-Levels.
Maburutuse came to national and international attention when a documentary film about the band in which he played lead marimba player, Liyana, won an Oscar and another documentary about the group of musicians with disabilities, IThemba, swept top prizes at film festivals in Europe.
Giving Back! Energy Maburutse from Lynn University speaks with the English Access Class at Chiedza Childcare Centre, Harare, about removing societal stigma for those with disabilities.
In 2010, Maburutuse was one of 30 students chosen from more than 1000 applicants, for the United States Achievers Program (USAP), which helps brilliant students from disadvantaged backgrounds get into U.S universities.
He won a scholarship from Lynn University in Florida, where he is studying towards a Bachelor of Arts majoring in media, politics and international business.
In a recent report on attitudes toward those with disabilities in Zimbabwe, the National Association of Societies for the Care of the Handicapped (NASCOH), reported that people with disabilities are still being viewed from a medical and welfare framework, identifying them as ill, different from their non-disabled peers, and in need of care. This often leads to neglect.
Currently on vacation in Zimbabwe, Maburutse is using his vacation to attack those attitudes by travel to most parts of the country telling his life story and discussing disability issues.
Energy Mapurutsa and a colleague at Lynn University
His most important message is that being disabled does not mean being dependent, and he spreads it sometimes in unusual ways.
Once, a well-meaning stranger offered him a $10 bill. Maburutse responded by handing the man a $20 to illustrate that he is not a charity case.
He admits that much of the self-confidence he shows is the result of his experiences in the U.S. where everyone has a chance to realize their ambition.
Although some activists say Zimbabwe’s new constitution does not adequately provide for the rights of the disabled, Energy sees otherwise. Still, he says government needs to do more to ensure the implementation of its own policies to improve the lives of the disabled.
There are about 1.4 million people living with disabilities in Zimbabwe. The Swedish International Development (SIDA) says Zimbabwe was once a model of disability rights in Africa, but years of socio-economic decline have reversed gains of yester-year.