Dec 2023 edition

Alexandra woman defies the odds of disability

Gabi Khumalo

Nkateko Emily Mabasa believes that all citizens can work together to achieve an inclusive society.


Mabasa, 33, is the founder of Phoenix Alexandra, a non-profit organisation (NPO) that provides a range of activities for children and youth in Alexandra in Gauteng. These include dancing, singing, drama/acting, spelling bee, modelling, reading club, poetry, and chess club.

She established it in 2020 when her friend, Joseph Setlhake, asked her to arrange a dance group to entertain people at his event.

“Knowing that I am a dancer, he thought it would be a good idea to have me handle it. At first, we only had three people, but the number of children quickly grew to 40 before the event. Despite having only six weeks to prepare, we managed to pull it off,” Mabasa reminisced.

Today, the organisation caters for children between the ages of 6 and 17, as well as young adults who are committed to their growth and are eager to learn about potential, positive body image, kindness, and the value of hard work.

Her passion for contributing to building an inclusive society comes from embracing her living with a disability.

At birth, Mabasa was diagnosed with mild spastic diplegia/diparesis Cerebral Palsy

“I also had difficulty speaking, which required me to go for speech therapy to help me articulate myself and manage stuttering,” she explained. 

The passionate dancer, who holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Fashion Design, encourages young people living with disabilities to embrace their disabilities and never let them define their lives.

 “I have been self-funding Phoenix Alexandra since its inception, and we utilise a limited space in front of my house for our rehearsals and activities. I also raise funds by accepting bookings for motivational talks at corporate events. We have received support from parents through small donations, enabling our organisation to go on educational trips and perform for the local community in the three years of our existence,” she explained.


Mabasa received a Gold Award Holder in South Africa for The President's Award for Youth Empowerment/Duke of Edinburgh International Award. Between 2018 and 2019, she served as a director in the organisation.

The award ceremony is a non-formal education youth development programme that empowers youths aged between 14 and 24 to explore their full potential and find their purpose, passion and place in the world.

 In 2017, she was recognised as a role model by the Valhalla Arts Tributes Awards. In 2023, she was awarded the Sunday World Unsung Hero for the Youth in Sports, Arts, and Culture.

She said in December 2023 she will launch “Celebrating our differences embracing my superpowers”, a children’s book that discusses disability.

The book will be available at Select Exclusive Books Stores, Takealot, Loot, Makro online from 03 December 2023.

Contact Phoenix Alexandra via WhatsApp: 074 027 4606, or email   

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