(Johannesburg) – Samkelo Radebe might have lost his hands when he was a child, but he refused to let this define his path.
Among his many accolades, Radebe has participated in the Common Wealth games and represented South Africa during the Paralympics in 2012.
“I’ve always advocated for me being me. I am a hard-working person. I’m a determined person and every time I commit to something, I want to be the best at it. There is that part that is me as a person and there’s the fact that I’m black and disabled. But those things don’t define who I am. They are just part of who I am,” he says.
Radebe says he doesn’t want to be categorised as the black disabled attorney as looking at yourself like that limits your potential. He wants to be regarded as an attorney.
The athlete was recently admitted as an attorney at the High Court, after finishing his articles at Werkmans Attorneys and he is thrilled about the achievement.
It has been a long, hard journey, filled with a lot of lows for former Radebe. But the journey has not been in vain, and while it took him six years to obtain his LLB, Radebe says it has all been worth it as he has now been admitted to the High Court as an attorney.
The award-winning sport star says law became an obvious choice for him when he was in Grade 11.
“I had to look at what career would require mostly the use of my brain and my mouth and less the use of my hands because they are not there. So I couldn’t for instance want to be a dentist, because you need the delicacy of the fingers to do that. So I had to be realistic and look for a job that required intellect and less of the physical doing of the hands. I felt that law was the perfect career and it would also allow me the flexibility of working in a company, as opposed to working in a firm or in court. There’s a lot of flexibility once you get your LLB and are admitted as an attorney,” he says.
Radebe lost his hands when he was electrocuted by high voltage wires at the age of nine while playing with his friends.
The Soweto-born and now retired athlete says studying law while representing his country in athletics was not easy. His studies suffered immensely.
“I had to balance the two, imagine I had all these competitions while I had studies. So it wasn’t easy at all. I had very bad moments. While things were going so well [in] athletics, I couldn’t do very well at school,” he says.
Radebe’s lowest moment was in 2010 when he competed at the Common Wealth Games and while he won a silver for SA in the 100m, he failed half his subjects at the University of Johannesburg. But terrible as he felt about failing his subjects, giving up was not part of his plan.
“As a result of the level I was as an athlete it wasn’t possible to do my degree at the specified time, I had to do it over six years. The lowest point was in my third year, which was in 2010 when I was competing at the Common Wealth Games. It was impossible to focus on my studies while I also focused on sports,” he says.
Not only did Radebe fail half of his subjects, but he also lost his bursary and was kicked out of the school accommodation. This meant that he had to work harder in the following year, and he did.
While the journey has not been easy, Radebe who now works for Liberty as a financial advisor and wealth advisor, is excited to become an attorney and hopes that other athletes will also consider studying.
“Its important for us sportspeople to not only have goals of representing the country and to be the best athletes, but to think beyond the sports career. And my recommendation would be that school would really make a big difference. You need to be able to look after yourself when that career comes to an end,” he says.
This story was sourced from DestinyConnect