By: Tebogo Mokwena
Mongezi Majenge’s mission to help people living with disabilities has resulted in him winning a number of awards, including for a wheelchair he designed for stairs, and making it affordable for people to move quickly and maintain their wheelchairs. According to Majenge, the Ruby Wheelchair design is one of many endeavours his company 911 The Wheelchair Doctor has explored to make mobility easier for people living with disabilities. These include refurbishing, manufacturing and customising wheelchairs, crutches, and walkers.
Majenge’s idea to manufacture the wheelchair came while he was participating in an entrepreneurs’ programme at Wits University. He was tasked with identifying a problem in the community or business sector and finding ways to solve them. He came up with five main issues, and one of the problems he encountered while collecting data was how people living with disabilities struggled to move on escalators and stairs in public buildings and spaces. This was especially a concern because not many public buildings had elevators.
The Ruby Wheelchair became a national and international hit when it was announced in 2021, and he racked up awards and accolades, including winning R1.3-million at the South African Breweries Foundation Social Innovation and Disability Empowerment Awards. He used the money to invest in the business. Majenge told Vutivi News that through his company, which was opened in 2018 in Isando, Ekurhuleni, he sought to address a range of issues.
These included wheelchair repairs, wheelchair service turnaround time, and wheelchair affordability. He also wanted to introduce customised wheelchairs and mobility aids. “We refurbish and fix wheelchairs on location, and we even have affordable payment solutions for residents to purchase and use wheelchairs,” he said. “Pensioners, people living with disabilities and young children get services for a cheaper price compared to the working class. “We also have an option where we rent out wheelchairs to people that need them temporarily.”
Majenge said that he wanted to make the lives of people living with disabilities more bearable and give them a greater sense of dignity. “I regularly donate wheelchairs to people in need… recently we donated wheelchairs to people affected by the floods in KwaZulu-Natal,” he said. “My aim is to be able to manufacture and refurbish 1000 wheelchairs each year,” he said. “I feel like I have not achieved the goals I wanted to, which is to empower as many disabled people as I can.”