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Metrobus’s female auto electrician in driver’s seat Print E-mail
23 August 2017

As a young girl, Sibonginkosi Ndlovu loved taking things apart and putting them together all over again – just for the thrill of it.

As she grew up, Ndlovu had no doubt that her future lay in the rough and tumble, male-dominated world of motor mechanics.

In pursuit of her dream, she enrolled for an auto electrical engineering course, much against the advice of some of the people closest to her. That was 15 years ago.

Today, Ndlovu no longer breaks things for fun, she fixes them for a living – and she is enjoying every minute of it.

The 36-year-old is a fully fledged auto electrician on the motor mechanics team of Metrobus, the City of Johannesburg’s public bus passenger service that transports more than 14 million commuters to various destinations every year. The company’s fleet of 486 buses covers 10 million kilometres across 229 routes every year. It is the duty of Ndlovu and her colleagues – most of them men – to keep these buses on the road at all times by ensuring they are mechanically sound and in tip top condition.

Ndlovu has been doing this for the past five years she has been at Metrobus and, if there ever had been any doubt that this job could only be done by men, she has successfully buried that.

She says she just had to make a success of it because anything other than that would have been a betrayal of the cause of thousands of women who marched to the Union Buildings on 9 August 1956 to demand equal access to opportunities, justice and freedom.

“I’ve always wanted to work on cars. So, when I went to study to become an artisan, I began to live my dream,” says Ndlovu.

She says the course she underwent did not only equip her with the skills to succeed in the industry, but it also sufficiently prepared her to enter what was then perceived to be a man’s world.

“This is not an easy field. What it requires is mental and intellectual strength more than physical strength,” says Ndlovu.

“By the time I started working 12 years ago – before I came to Metrobus – I was mentally ready. I’ve friends who dropped out along the way. But because I was patient and determined to succeed, I made it.”

Throughout her career, Ndlovu has come to realise that men are not necessarily difficult but rather helpful. “If you show your male counterparts you have a strong character, they will respect you,” she says.

She says, however, that she is not oblivious to the fact that men would challenge women and question their capabilities.

“Don’t, as a woman, allow that to get to you. Instead, see it as an opportunity to let your work speak for you,” says Ndlovu.

She is, however, concerned about women who still think that the technical environment is for men only.

“There is no such thing as male and female jobs. We fought for these rights to be treated as equals, so let’s not sell ourselves short. Gender doesn’t determine one’s capabilities or lack thereof,” she says.

It was through confidence and desire that she now has a fulfilling career. Ndlovu says Metrobus has provided her with an environment that has allowed her to grow. To empower herself further, she is studying towards a degree in information technology at the University of South Africa. She says, in line with the ideals of the women of 1956, women must widen their horizons.

“Living in a country with such a high unemployment rate means people need to stop being job-seekers and start creating their own employment by starting their own businesses. People can’t just rely on others to give them jobs; they need to get up and get things done themselves,” says Ndlovu.

“If I had any advice for aspiring female artisans out there it would be to never give up on their dreams,” she says.

Ndlovu says were she to be given another chance to choose a career, she would not hesitate to go for auto electrical engineering all over again.


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