Meet the first black female navy commander

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The first Black woman to command a navy vessel was recently appointed. Zimasa Mabela broke new ground, when she took charge of a de-mining ship based in Cape Town, South Africa.

Zimasa Mabela grew up under apartheid in a South African village just two hours drive from the ocean, but she didn’t get to the coast until she was 18. Now, aged 38, she is the first black African woman to command a South African naval vessel.

Her desire for a life at sea came when she was at university studying for a BSc degree in education. She attended a presentation by the navy and was captivated by the slogan: “Join the navy and see the world.” She signed up in 1999 as a radio operator, and the navy has so far lived up to its promise. She has traveled to places as diverse as India, Uruguay, St Helena island and Canada.

Mabela is a mother of two daughters, aged six and four, but she says juggling work and motherhood is not a problem. When she gets home, the naval commander seamlessly takes on the tasks that come with being a wife and mother.

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