Brandon Penn and Mike Backhouse

The first silo of what is now the South African Sugar Terminal (SAST) was opened in 1965. At that time, this was likely considered a very “manly” place to work. For many decades, the demographics of the staff on site was predominantly male, with the team serving the South African sugar industry through expertise in artisan trades, electrical, mechanical and plant maintenance, logistics, engineering, boiler making, rigging, heavy vehicle driving and ship loading. 

With concerted effort over the last decade, the demographics of the team has changed dramatically. The focussed recruitment and planned development of women in this significant workplace within the sugar industry has yielded great results. A comparison of A, B and C band workers in 2009 compared with 2019 is shown below. 

Significantly, more women now operate in critical roles within the plant. Reshma Mahabeer serves as a Weighbridge Clerk in the Intake Department. Amongst other duties as Maintenance Worker focussed on pumps, Wendile Majozi is a skilled front-end loader driver. Following a process of internal development, Thandeka Ngxangani and Zama Ngcobo were promoted from Artisan Aides to Electrical Assistant and Welding Assistant respectively. These are only a few examples of the progress women have made in contributing to the activities of the sugar terminal.

Many of the women report that their male colleagues have supported their development and success at SAST. With mentorship from experienced boilermaker Bernard Swart, Zama Ngcobo is currently being trained to become a boilermaker, and is expected to complete her last phase of boilermaker training this year. Thereafter, Zama would aim to qualify in 2020 as an artisan. Zama is poised to become the first female artisan in SAST’s history. 

Left (Top): Fezile Fakude (Artisan Aide) and Zama Ngcobo (Welding Assistant) with mentor Bernard Swart (Boilermaker). Centre: Women at work.  Right (Above) Siphokazi Ngidi, Mbe Nzimande and Nozi Chiliza (Lady Leadership at SAST). 

In addition, some key areas of activity at the sugar terminal are now managed by women. Siphokazi Ngidi is in charge of Health and Safety, and started as an intern at the terminal. Nozi Chiliza plays a critical role as SAST’s Accreditations Officer. Mbe Nzimande manages the receipt, storage and dispatch of bulk raw sugar, and directs the activities of a significant team on the plant. 

There is no doubt that the Sugar Terminal is now a female-friendly place to work!

Brandon Penn is Operations Manager at SAST and
Mike Backhouse is Human Resources Manager at SAST