Thandekile Shabane is always on the move. At the helm of a 48-seater bus, she churns through her routes, delivering commuters to their destinations. As Shabane navigates the streets of Durban with expert care her mind holds the safety of her passengers in constant focus. Skilled as she is behind the wheel, being a bus driver wasn’t the 29-year-old’s first choice. As with everything, she had to fight the traffic to get here. Today she is one of South Africa’s most accomplished drivers.
Shabane dreamed of becoming a pilot, but her diminutive height ruled it out. Determined to drive, she entertained the idea of commanding a train. No good. So she set her sights on bus driving, a field notoriously unwelcoming for women. Countless applications to transport companies were rejected, sounding the same dull tune. Too short. Too young. Too inexperienced. Unperturbed, Shabane pressed on, volunteering to drive for a construction company to gain experience. Eventually she requested a field test from her would-be employers, challenging them to let her driving speak for itself. She got the job.
In hindsight the company must feel that they came perilously close to missing out on a phenomenal asset. Shabane was named South Africa’s best driver in 2014, after dominating the local competitive bus-driving scene. Winning the national championship earned her a trip to Poland to represent her country against the world’s best. Shabane returned having placed 16th out of 90 drivers in a contest that tested both theory and practice. At the peak of her powers, Shabane continues to dream big, training up-and-coming drivers to make the country’s roads safe for all.
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