‘We once slept at Park Station to not miss the first church service, hoping to heal my blindness’ – News24

Wednesday, 11 January
10 Jan
He was the only blind model who entered the Face of Humanity SA in December 2022. He came onto the ramp with high confidence and a competitive spirit, and he won the title for 2022 and 2023.
Blind model Lebogang Justice Bale (21) doesn’t believe he won because he was blind, but because he has a vision that far surpasses his eyesight. “The pageant was open to everyone. There were hundreds of hopefuls, but I was the only one with a disability out of 20 finalists,” Justice tells Drum.
“I won not because of my blindness, but because of what I stand for and the work that I have done and still wish to do.”
Justice says he does not like people feeling pity for him not having sight. “I try not to use my blindness to my benefit. In fact, no one knew I was blind at the pageant until the final show. The organisers found out two weeks before the show that I was blind to avoid being treated differently.”
He started modelling at the beginning of 2022 after friends convinced him that he had what it takes. 
“Before that, I used to help organise fashion shows, such as The Fashion Circle in Katlehong. It’s never been something I wanted to do but people always suggested that I give it a try.”
Before pageants, Justice was making music. “I have taken a break from music. I am currently focusing on modelling and doing community work.
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“I started a blog called I See Nine all about the world of entertainment,” he says. “I did music because it was a passion and all I could turn to after I became blind,” he says.
“Music was all I knew at the time. I rapped to Afrobeats. I currently have a pending mixtape with Danko Carter (Relebogile Bafoka), which we put together in 2019 and will be releasing soon.”
Born in Johannesburg, Justice lived in Hillbrow for six years before relocating to Kempton Park to live with his aunt and younger sister. The third child out of four, his eldest sibling and youngest brother currently lives with his parents in the UK.
“I was raised by my aunt. I have never had a close relationship with my parents. My aunt has been amazing and supportive in everything I do,” he adds.
Justice lost his sight on 18 December 2011. “I suffered a retinal detachment and woke up one morning without eyesight.”
He says it was scary and surreal. “I don’t know or remember how I felt but now when I woke up blind, people thought I was pretending. I wasn’t even home when it happened. I had visited the first-born aunt and it just happened.”
When he became blind, his aunt was there for him. “She took me to churches, sangomas, hospitals, we even slept at Park Station once to not miss the first church service all hoping to heal my blindness,” and he believed he would be healed.
He previously had issues with his eyesight from birth but never thought it would lead to blindness. “I have had about 13 eye operations. I was young. I was born cross-eyed with my eye somehow looking down, not in a normal way.
“My parents wanted to get that fixed. That is when the problem started. The doctors wanted to over-fix the problem and I was being worked on by student doctors. People asked me to sue the doctors, but I wanted to move on, people made a mistake and I have to move on and try to live with my blindness,” he says.
Justice recently learned that he will never be able to repair his eyesight again.
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“I heard from a doctor last year that there was no way to recover my eyesight. I had hopes of seeing my own kids one day and driving a big car. But I had to close that chapter. I couldn’t believe it. I cried, but realised I have to make the best of what I have.”
In 2012 he enrolled at Prinsof School for Partially Sighted and Blind where he repeated his Grade 5.
“I had to learn Braille. I picked it up relatively quickly and went to Braille competitions. I received two medals. I completed matric there and after, I have been pursuing music and modelling,” he says.
“I never went to tertiary. It has been difficult to find a decent school that caters to blind people and I didn’t want to put myself through the stress.”
Given the chance to study further, Justice would have studied hospitality management and tourism. “I really love tourism,” he says.
His goal is to change the way people see people with disabilities. With the title of The Face of Humanity SA, he will be involved in charity work, and community development and lead projects that help youth.
“My personal plan is to drive feeding schemes and drive youth-related conversations. I want to help give them alternatives outside of education to those who cannot afford or are in positions where they cannot get an education,” Justice adds.
“I also want the world to destigmatise their opinion about bind people. They think when you are blind or disabled you are unable. I want to remove that thinking. A disability doesn’t take away anything from who you are. I love women just as any other person with sight. I date. I eat the same. I think and breathe the same and I am passionate about community development. But I don’t want to motivate people. My blindness shouldn’t be motivation. I want to be treated equally to people without disability.”
Justice says he has had to cut people out of his life for treating him like a “charity case”.
“I have had to cut out people who feel sorry for me. There’s nothing different about me, I just don’t have sight. Those who felt pity for me needed to go. My blindness is not a marketing point for me. I am not saying look past my blindness, but don’t make me the centre of attention.”
13 Dec 2022
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