Celebrating women’s month, BCMM writer Zanda Booi had a chat with one of the Metro’s Refuse Truck Drivers, Nomonde Simelane, about her day to day operations, her aspirations and how she challenged stereotypes when she landed her job.
The 52-year-old Simelane is among the most inspiring women, who continue to break down gender barriers in industries previously dominated by men. The unusual combination of being a truck driver and a middle aged mother of three surprises many who come into contact with Simelane.
The Qumbu born driver had dreams of becoming a police woman, but circumstances at the time prevented her from completing matric, making it difficult for her to follow her dream.
To provide for her young children she sought to find any form of work to put food on the table and landed a job as a Street Sweeper for the City in 1998. She was promoted to be the team leader for Street Sweepers in 2003. In her pursuit to advance her career, she decided to get a driver’s license to be able to apply for work as a driver in 2012.
The following year, in 2013, Simelane was presented with an opportunity to act in a truck driver position where she proved herself as a reliable and cautious driver and as a result was absorbed permanently as a Driver Overseer in 2015.
Simelane said her work is very rewarding, as she contributes toward service delivery by doing her bit to keep the City clean.
“Making sure that refuge bags are collected every day in the City is not just a duty for me, it is a moral responsibility.”
Talking about her daily routine, Simelane said: “The day starts with inspecting the truck for any defaults and we also check that the team is in safety gear and that all the tools are in place for the day. Then we head to our designated areas which include Quigney, Westbank and Arcadia to collect refuse.”
She added that she cannot imagine being office bound, because she enjoys spending hours out on the road and meeting new people. Simelane heads a team of 23 refuse collectors and says leading a group that is largely made up of men is not without its fair share of challenges.
“At first it was intimidating to walk into a male dominated workplace and be required to give instructions to my male counterparts, but perceptions are slowly changing. Men are now becoming more accepting of women in these roles,” she said. Simelane said she receives immense encouragement from women for her work and also takes the opportunity to remind women that they too can be anything they want to be.
“Young women always come up to me wanting to enquire about my job and how they could secure employment as truck drivers. In these days, women are interested in taking non-traditional jobs and I am always keen to give good advice.”
Revealing her plans for the future, Simelane said she intends to continue working as a driver overseer and hopes to move into a management position in the future.