Train driving has been a career traditionally dominated by man, however, the industry over the years has transformed and attitudes towards women as drivers have mellowed greatly.
Rose Mahlangu 31, who hails from Mamelodi, east of Tshwane, bear testimony to this as she has been driving trains for over 6 years. She started off as an assistance in 2008, before being appointed as a driver in 2012.
She says she loves her job and would not exchange it for anything.
“For now I’m still happy, I love driving trains – I love driving on curves and I look out on the window and then see my train – seventy five trucks – and I say oh it’s me who’s in control of that thing,” says Mahlangu.
She is among 25 female drivers in the depot in Emalahleni, Mpumalanga.
“When they see the train moving they think it needs strength – it needs all that it needs – maybe they think that you have to work hard, you have to carry very heavy material of which it’s not it’s really not,” says Mahlangu.
The challenges in her job that she cites are linked to the scourge of cable theft.
“This thing of theft is killing us because it’s either they’ll steal something from the locomotive itself or maybe will steal your overheads and then you are coming with a train and boom the overhead is not there.”
She says the trauma of the hanging cable hitting the locomotive is unbearable.
Section Manager Thamsangqa Hlatswayo says, “Rose’s train doesn’t jerk – she plans her train, she knows the road knowledge because the time when you drive a train smooth – it tells us that you know your road down and up.”
Mahlengu also encourages women to open doors and to knock until someone opens because we live in a democracy where everyone should have equal opportunity.
“There is nothing where they can say this is for men or this is for women. So us as women, we can now take the driving seat – we can now lead and nothing comes for free let’s work hard,” says Mahlangu.
Mahlangu hauls five thousand tons of cargo mostly, chrome and coal from Emalahleni to places as far as Komatipoort with her longest driven journey having been ten hours. –Report by Molemo-waOne Mothoa