Appointed as the first black harbour master in South Africa and the youngest in the world in 2002, Captain Rufus Lekala has now made maritime history again after becoming the first black chief harbour master in the country and the youngest in the world to hold such a position.
matriculated at Vlakfontein High School
in Mamelodi, Pretoria, in 1990, and hoped to study further, but could not afford it.
"After matric I had no money to study, so I drove taxis for five years in Pretoria.
It wasn\'t for me," said Lekala
While driving taxis, he
earned an average of R1 000 a month.
Lekala's big break came in 1996 when he
heard that Portnet was offering bursaries for studies in the maritime sector.
"I applied, not expecting a landlubber like me to be selected.
I knew nothing about the sea.
It wasn\'t part of my culture, but I was desperate and when you want to make something of yourself, you\'ll take any opportunity that arrives," he
Getting the bursary enabled Lekala
to do maritime studies at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology
and, after completing the course in 1998, he
began climbing the ladder.
started by doing in-service training and then became a tugmaster, manoeuvring vessels in and out of port.
next appointment was as marine pilot.
Stationed at the East London port in 2002, he
became the youngest harbour master in the world and the first black one.
This harbour has about 35 vessels going through it a month.
was then transferred to Cape Town, which handles over 300 vessels.
progressed to running the 500-vessel-a-month port of Durban, the second largest in Africa after Port Said in Egypt.
"You need people skills in this work as you're at the front line of the company and you need to be analytical.
Most of my job is dealing with other people\'s problems and I must remain neutral, not taking sides," he
is now responsible for 12 people: eight harbour masters, three operations managers and a personal assistant.
lives by the philosophy that "nothing is impossible in life", and believes a person should lead by consensus.
Lekala the family man
In 2002 Lekala married Mathilda Mopayi, a marine pilot who also works for Transnet.
Lekala says his late sister Dorothy Phetla, businessman Richard Maponya and Transnet mentor, Captain Edward Bremner are his biggest influences, professionally and personally.
Lekala is the vice-president of the International Harbour Masters Association and an honorary member of the Natal, Point and Bluff yacht clubs.
Rufus Lekala, chief harbour master in South Africa and the youngest in the world, said: "These women have put us on the map once more and should be very proud of their achievements."
Winning the trust of sceptical captains