News / South Africa

Virginia Keppler
2 minute read
27 Mar 2017
6:00 am

Nandi flies high with C-130 wings

Virginia Keppler

Femininity is enhancing, not a limiting factor, says new SAAF commander.

While the South African Air Force is celebrating Africa’s first female to qualify as commander of the C-130 aircraft at 28 Squadron, based at Air Force Base Waterkloof, Major Nandi Zama says her achievement has nothing to do with being black or female.

Not scared of heights at all, Zama told The Citizen she always wanted to fly the operational line.

“This is ultimately where you end up in the organisation. I am really happy and proud to have gotten command of such a powerful aircraft.

“The African part and the female part is not the main achievement. We are not celebrating the African female part, but rather the fact that I achieved this and I am working with an efficient team who welcomed me in their command,” the 31-year old said in a stern voice.

Zama arrived back in Pretoria yesterday afternoon from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), after conducting a support flight to the DRC.

She said she was in Grade 11 back in her hometown in KwaMashu, a township 32km north of Durban, during a career exhibition, when she decided she wanted to be a pilot.

After completing her matric, she applied and was accepted into the air force and from there she worked hard every step of the way.

The major said flying is a dangerous job.

“Every time you get into the aircraft there is an element of risk, but I cannot say there were instances where I thought I won’t come back home,” she said.

She said in her profession there was no difference between any of the pilots in the air force.

“If you do your bit with regard to this fraternity it does not matter if you are male or female,” Zama said.

Her advice to people who want to follow in her footsteps or any other career is to decide what you want to do and have commitment to it.

“Make the best of it and don’t focus much on the fact that you are a girl.

“Rather use your power as a female and become as good as you can be. It does not have to be in aviation.

“Being a female should not be a limiting fact, but instead an enhancing factor,” Zama said.

– virginiak@citizen.co.za