Durban - A South Coast woman has proved the fairer sex are better behind the wheel - at least when it comes to driving a complicated vehicle such as a bus.
Thandekile Shabane, 26, from Umgababa, a driver for Durban Transport, is to represent South Africa in an international driver of the year competition in Poland later this year.
She will pit her driving skills and road safety knowledge against 17 male drivers from other countries.
The competition has been a four-stage journey for Shabane - she won the regional, provincial, and national women’s bus driving competitions.
“Now I am looking forward to winning internationally,” she said.
Shabane’s 48-seater bus was branded “KZN Provincial Driver of the Year 2013”, after she came top in the provincial competition.
TOO YOUNG, TOO SMALL
Breaking into the male-dominated industry has not been easy for Shabane, whose applications to Durban Transport for a job were turned down more than once.
“Every time I submitted an application, I was told I was too young and too short and I would not make it,” she said.
Frustrated, Shabane challenged the authorities.
“I asked for a driving test because I didn’t want to be judged on my height or gender but my capability,” she said.
When Shabane completed Grade 12 at Wentworth High School in 2007, she wanted to be a pilot but didn’t meet the 1.6metre height requirement.
She is still considering a career in the maritime world and dreams of captaining a ship.
Her mother paid for her high school education and driving lessons with money from her vending business.
At age 22, she volunteered her driving services to a construction company to gain valuable driving experience.
Shabane said bus driving had its challenges.
“Some passengers refuse to pay their full fare or demand to get off at a place which is not a designated bus stop,” she said.
She said she was concerned at the high road death toll in South Africa and hoped she would learn more about road safety in Poland.
“When I return, I want to share the skills I acquire so we can have more responsible drivers in this country.”
KwaZulu-Natal transport MEC Willies Mchunu said the competition was supported by the government to encourage heavy motor vehicle drivers to sharpen their driving skills.