Photo caption: Xolile Mabika.
For 21-year-old Xolile Mabika of Jozini village in KwaZulu-Natal, the thought of ever sailing the seven seas and be- coming the captain of a ship someday was just a dream. But now, thanks government and the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA), she is on the fast track to making her dream a reality.
Mabika is one of the few recruits chosen as an intern for the SAMSA Cadet Recruitment Programme. She, along with other cadets, will receive port and sea training during the intern- ship.
“Growing up in Jozini, there were no ships and no one ever spoke about ship- ping or even knew about the maritime industry. It was such a foreign concept.”
A few years ago, Makiba’s father started working at a Bid-freight Port Operation and told her stories about big ships passing through harbours and about life working on a ship. “I was so fascinated with these stories that I knew I had to go and see these ships for myself.”
During her school holidays, she went along to the port with her dad and was fascinated by the massive ships. “I instantly fell in love with the ships and knew that this was where my future lay; maritime was my calling; it was where I was meant to be.”
“The first time I went on board, I remember feeling so scared yet so happy; it was indescribable and it was clear to see that passion for the job that the ship crew had,” says Mabika. Another intimidating factor for Mabika was that most of the crew were men, and she was determined to prove the stereotype wrong that maritime is a male- dominated field.
Thereafter, she visited the port every chance she got. She would watch the crew and the surveyors and ask them questions. “Some had been working on the ships for longer that I had been born. The knowledge they had to share was so inspiring.”
After completing matric, Mabika started her career in maritime studies at the Durban University of Technology. The course lasts two years and includes sea-going subjects such as navigation, engineering sciences, naval architecture and sea transport, to name a few.
After completing the first phase of the course, Mabika needed to complete an internship or training programme before completing phase two. She was assisted by SAMSA and was chosen for the cadet recruitment programme. She began her training at the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre at the SAMSA Sea watch unit with land and port training and is currently away on sea training. “Our training consists of four months on land, then four months at sea and then back again to land. I can’t wait to go out to sea, even though I am a little scared, I have prepared myself mentally, so I am ready.”
During her land and port training Mabika, along with other cadets, learnt how to help docking and passing ships in distress. They were taught how to facilitate and provide support to ships in need.
“The more I learn about this industry the more I love and I can only thank SAMSA, they took me from nothing to something, I am on my way towards my destination and a little closer to achieving my dreams.”
Mabika also emphasised the importance of this programme for the youth in South Africa. “There are many young people out there just like me that came from hardship and were not exposed to these careers, but they must know that there are many opportunities for us through government. We cannot just sit back and expect things to happen, we have to make them happen and take advantage of these great opportunities.”
“Young black people in the country need to lose the mentality that the ships and the sea are not meant for them. Go out and realise that these doors are open for us.”
Her advice to others is to be patience, focus and work hard. Do not focus on the past but reach towards your future.
For more information, call SAMSA: 012 366 2600