David who?

David Shabangu's business career is going places! And the world renowned city of California is just one of them!

Wheelchair basketball player David Shabangu of Langeville will be representing the disabled community of South Africa at a conference in California at the end of this month. He is one of the directors of the Velaphi Projects formed 18 months ago to provide job opportunities for the disabled. Velaphi runs various businesses including a catering business, a chemical factory and they build safe boxes for power meters.

This 24-year-old go-getter has got the Velaphi business culture in his blood, putting aside any form of setback to get to the top, seeing each and every chance as an opportunity given to him by greater powers.

Already, word in the Velaphi Projects offices in Germiston on the Johannesburg East Rand is that the Springs-born smooth-talking Shabangu is being groomed to take over the MD post from current incumbent Graham Hall when the time is right.

A tough task it will be with Velaphi having had a highly productive 2004 with several lucrative contracts on the catering scene in particular, having been bank, while 2005 looks set to be a year of big bucks, with the production and packaging of pool chemicals, dish wash liquid, electricity boxes and several other products set to have the BEE-structured Velaphi putting a smile on the faces of their accountants and bank manager.

Shabangu laughs at the idea that his physical handicap has left him far left aligned physically or politically, having damaged his spine while playing with a wheel barrow at his aunt’s home in Pongola, Kwazulu Natal at the age of three years.

“I’m currently busy with driving lessons but it is not true that I only turn the steering wheel to the left,” said Shabangu the wit of a man that has outgrown the life of a handicapped person, instead deciding to look ahead and be treated as a ‘normal’ person in society, if only society would see it that way.

Speaking about his international ventures, Shabangu, who has been with Velaphi since March 2003, said: “At the beginning of the year I was privileged to go to Dubai to attend an exhibition. Even though I was inexperienced at this level of business, I learnt a lot. At present I can go and do a presentation on my own and fear nothing because what I present comes from inside of me.

In December I will be attending Youth Conventions in California and Guinea, thanks to an invitation from the Association for the Physically Disabled, which was extended to the Langaville Youth Club, of which I am chairperson.”

Back to home soil, and life is lekker, according to the never-tongue-tired Shabangu.

“Despite my physical handicap, life has been good to me, and I have been blessed with an opportunity of becoming a Director of Velaphi, which is a BEE company that creates employment opportunities for disabled persons, of which many of the employees are currently sports stars,” said Shabangu, while admitting that he and S A Paralympic stars Zanele Situ and Ntombo Somtswayi could well be known as the ‘testing trio’ during office hours.

David Shabangu stands proudly next to the Velaphi business style TBK electricity box that has become a breath of fresh air in electricity safety in the township areas

“The Velaphi management are often on the edge of their nerves with us, but at the end of the day there is a great vibe between everyone, and we can all sit back and share a few jokes along the way.”

And with world javelin record holder Situ also being upgraded to Velaphi Director status?

“I am sure Zanele will crack the whip and be out to cut short my breaks from work which I spend on the basketball courts outside the offices at the Pavilion Sports Centre,” said Shabangu.

“SA Paralympic team world breast-stroke record holder, Tedgh Slatterly has also joined the Velaphi team and is a wizard behind the computer on the data capturing front

Tadgh is deaf and when the phone rings we tell him it is a call for him and why didn’t he answer the phone? That is how we are at Velaphi. We don’t hide the fact that we have physical handicaps. To use it is a way of living and we live life to the fullest.”

Basketball has indeed been a cornerstone in Shabangu’s life, after having been introduced to the wheelchair basketball code by his primary school teacher Gert Viljoen in 1997.

At the East Rand home in Langaville where he lives with his grandmother Lena who raised him, Shabangu smiled broadly as he gazed towards his wheelchair basketball achievement trophies that include 1997 Best Junior Player at the SA Junior Wheelchair Basketball Sports Camp sponsored by Pick ‘n Pay, 2000 Discovery Eagles senior team representation in the Supersport Series, and 2001 call up to the SA under 21 team.

“I’m very involved with the community where I live in Langaville, and spend hours working with the Langaville Youth Club, which is a non-profit organisation that organises events, cultural activities and awareness programmes,” said Shabangu proudly. And this when he is not in the capacity of executive member of the Happiness for the Handicapped organisation, the founding organisation of Velaphi Projects.

David Shabangu and his grandmother Lena are all smiles outside their Langaville home on the East Rand

Velaphi MD Graham Hall will be the first to admit that his wheelchair basketball skills are far inferior to those of Shabangu, but rates the youngsters attitude in the office.

“David has tremendous confidence and vision for the future, which in my mind makes him an ideal candidate for the top job at Velaphi in a few years time,” said Hall.

“He is an absolute pleasure to work with, and is blessed with the gift of the grab, which has seen the clients warm to him in meetings and presentations.”

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