Sipho Mabena

By Sipho Mabena

Premium Journalist


SA Navy recruitment drive: Some applicants had to be rescued from swimming pool

'We cannot compromise on the selection criteria because if anything goes wrong, lives will be lost.'


What was supposed to be a South African Navy selection process for divers in Mbombela, Mpumalanga, ended up being a rescue mission as hopefuls had to be pulled from the swimming pool when they got into difficulties. Kgothatso Molatudi, 19, from Ga-Sekhukhune, Limpopo, about 400km away, had never seen a pool in his life but still came through to give it a try. However, the pool was too much for him. With a pure mathematics Matric pass and also his age counting in his favour, he was beaten by the second selection phase: the 300m freestyle swim in eight minutes.…

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What was supposed to be a South African Navy selection process for divers in Mbombela, Mpumalanga, ended up being a rescue mission as hopefuls had to be pulled from the swimming pool when they got into difficulties.

Kgothatso Molatudi, 19, from Ga-Sekhukhune, Limpopo, about 400km away, had never seen a pool in his life but still came through to give it a try. However, the pool was too much for him.

With a pure mathematics Matric pass and also his age counting in his favour, he was beaten by the second selection phase: the 300m freestyle swim in eight minutes. Molatudi did not even leave the shallow end of the pool and had to be pulled out of the 50m Olympic size pool by SA Navy diver leading seaman Lwazi Nzimande.

‘Never seen a swimming pool’

“I can swim but I only swim in rivers in my village. I have never seen a swimming pool other than on television or magazine. I just do not know why I cannot swim today,” a frustrated Molatudi said.

Up to 77 candidates turned up for the first day of the Mpumalanga leg of the selection drive, but only 26 proceeded to the second phase [swimming] and only one made it through this phase.

The rest could not proceed due to not having pure maths, not meeting the age criteria and having a low admission point score (APS) of 20 points.

Vuyiswa Busakwe

After the academic selection process, the next activity was that swimming test and only Vuyiswa Busakwe, 19, made it through.

SA Navy recruitment drive
Vuyiswa Busakwe, 19, excitedly gets out of the pool after completing the 300-metre freestyle swim during the SA Navy recruitment for divers in Mbombela, Mpumalanga on 15 May 2023. Picture by Sibongumenzi Sibiya/The Citizen

She first tried at the Soweto leg of the trials at the Pimville swimming pool on 27 and 28 April but did not make the time for the 300m cut-off freestyle swimming.

Busakwe did not despair and instead trained for two straight weeks to take aim at the Mpumalanga trials and yesterday she made it, swimming in a time of seven minutes 10 seconds.

This was the most gruelling part of the selection, but the determination of the girl from Sandton impressed the SA Navy instructors and there were loud applause when she made the cut.

ALSO READ: SA Navy on recruitment drive for divers

She swam the 50m snorkel with a diving mask full of water with ease as well as the 25m underwater swim but struggled with the 50m 6kg weight-belt swim.

‘Potential’

Busakwe, who last swam in 2018, also struggled for about 10 minutes where she had to retrieve an object from the floor of the swimming pool, also with a 6kg weight-belt around her waist.

The next hurdle for her to conquer was the land phase of the selection where she was required to run 2.4km in under 13 minutes, 40 push-ups, 50 sit-ups and seven pull-ups.

For the run, she finished with a time of 16 minutes and she flowed with the push ups, did 60 sit ups and made the cut with seven pull ups.

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“People who were in charge saw potential in me and gave me pointers to train thereafter and I decided to attend the Mpumalanga test,” said Busakwe.

“The biggest thing I was worried about was completing my 300m freestyle swim because I had not been swimming for six years.”

SA Navy: We cannot compromise

Lieutenant Lucky Khobane, officer in charge of the 2023 SA Navy diving recruitment drive, said the SA Navy divers were underwater salvage experts who specialise in underwater welding; clearing underwater obstacles for ships within the harbour, conduct submarine escape, underwater sabotage explosives disposal as well as Air Sea rescue operations which is what they did during the recent Eastern Cape floods in February.

He said they also conducted underwater searches on SA Navy vessels to ensure propellers were clear of any ropes.

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The requirements to join the SA Navy diving fraternity are that one must be a South African citizens aged between 18 and 22, and matriculated with pure mathematics. If older than 22 years, potential candidates should have a tertiary qualification [national diploma or a degree] but be not older than 26 years.

“Diving is technical in nature, requires a person with academic and physical attributes. We cannot compromise on the selection criteria because if anything goes wrong, lives will be lost,” said Khobane.

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The selection criteria is so gruelling that in Pretoria, out of 168 candidates who made it past the first phase [academic], only two were successful and in Joburg, five out of 87 were successful.

In Bloemfontein, Free State, there were 148 candidates and two were selected; in Northern Cape there were 75 candidates but only one made it; in the North West there were 135 hopefuls but two were successful; while in Polokwane, Limpopo, just two out of the 195 potentials made the cut.

SA Navy recruitment drive
It was a tough day at the pool for Felix Ndlovu,19, of Mkhuhlu in Mpumalanga. He is seen here being pulled out of the water by SA Navy diver Leading Seaman Bradly Kuscus, on 15 May 2023, at the SA Navy recruitment for divers in Mbombela, Mpumalanga. Picture by Sibongumenzi Sibiya/The Citizen

The next legs are in KwaZulu-Natal on Thursday and Friday at Kings Park Swimming Pool; Eastern Cape on 22 and 23 May at Zwelitsha and Ruth Belonsky Swimming Pool Parkside, East London, on 25 and 26 May they will be in Newton Park Swimming Pool, Gqeberha and the last one will be on 29 and 30 May at the SA Navy Diving School in Western Cape.

– siphom@citizen.co.za

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