Women take the wheel

01 August 2005

Zanele Nhlapo, one of five women bus drivers on campus.

"Wow," students comment when they see Zanele Nhlapo on the Jammie Shuttle bus, operated by Sibanye.

In her cap and black jeans Nhlapo looks like your typical UCT student. But instead of taking her place with all the other passengers, the slight young woman moves in behind the wheel. She is one of five women drivers you can see along the routes between the university's campuses and residences.

Bus driving has a long history and has traditionally been seen as a male role. A taxi driver and operator from Johannesburg, Nhlapo was in Cape Town for a holiday when she heard that women drivers were needed.

"It's like driving a car, except for the very wide turns you have to make," she commented.

The students have been very welcoming, she says, though she still gets the odd looks from motorists (gaping mouths), surprised to see someone as young as Nhlapo in charge of a heavy-duty vehicle.

Up on high, she commands some attention. One driver was so impressed he leaned out of his Golf and asked if she was married and could he please have her number.

She plans to stay in Cape Town and grow with the company, upgrading her Code 10 licence to a Code 14 so that she can drive the really big buses.

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