SAPO Celebrates SA Women




SAPO Celebrates SA Women

Changing the face of Port Operations

Committed to empowering women from the beginning of its existence in 2000 SAPO has been on a drive to elevate supervisors to managers. It put in place a pilot programme designed to provide 12 carefully selected women from administrative positions with the skills required to enter operations and manage terminals and staff. The Women in Operations initiative was a key development strategy of the organisation and symbolised a practical shift from the male dominated business environment of the past.

With intense training, including overseas study at leading international ports, these women have, within four years, been provided with the opportunity to climb the corporate ladder and take up their management positions.“For decades South African businesses including port operations were structured in such a way that they prevented women from achieving their personal and professional goals,” says Tau Morwe, CEO SAPO. “So we made a conscious decision to change this and create a world class port-based logistics management company where qualified women play a vital role in the operational and technical areas of our business.” All of the women have found management positions in the various ports and several of them are making their mark and changing the face of the workplace. While SAPO believes staff training at all levels is vital because of the specialist nature of its business it is not totally internally focused. SAPO is aware of the need to make its business understood among the youth.

It has embarked on a programme of nurturing young women in the business of its operations by extending the “Take a Girl Child to Work” programme to school holiday work experience. SAPO is also involved in a mentorship programme through the Women’s International Shipping and Trade Association.

“Empowerment is meaningless without education and we see a direct link between the development of our people and the achievement of our targets to become a profitable world-class player in the logistics chain,” says Tau.

Aiming for the Top!

“In a few years I see myself being groomed for Tau Morwe’s position as chief executive of South African Port Operations.”


This is the vision of Pholisa Magxunyana, Operations Manager at South African Port Operation’s Cape Town Container Terminal. And, judging by her track record of achievements as well as SAPO’s commitment to gender empowerment, the realisation of Pholisa’s vision is very possible. The self-confessed workaholic was first introduced to the world of shipping and logistics when she joined the then Portnet in December 1997 as a safety, health and environment risk officer.

“When the organisation divisionalised in 2000, I was offered an opportunity to enter the operations sector and joined SAPO’s Safety, Health, Environment and Quality (SHEQ) programme at the Cape Town Container Terminal.” Within a year Pholisa flexed her environmental health muscles and was able to turn the car terminal’s safety, health and environmental ratings on its head, from one star to four stars. It was this determination and self-drive that led her to be chosen as one of 12 women for SAPO’s Women in Operations (WIO) - a fast-tracking initiative aimed at gender empowerment.

Pholisa relished the challenges offered by the change in career focus. As part of the WIO Initiative, Pholisa was sent to the Maritime Shipping and Training College in Rotterdam where she and her SAPO colleagues learnt the intricacies of operations, port shipping and management. After eight months, Pholisa returned to the car terminal in June 2002 where she was appointed as the Operations Manager. However, this position was not one she occupied for long. While studying in Rotterdam, Pholisa’s diligence and propensity for operations was recognised when she was one of three students from Africa to be offered a two year scholarship to the South Korea Maritime University to study a master’s degree in logistics.

And now that she is back, Pholisa says it’s probably time to start looking around the organisation for her next move. “I have ambition and I firmly believe that if you want something you must go out and get it. I am a living example of this.”


Fighting the Legal Battles

“The recently introduced ISPS code, which stipulates that the contents of containers should be fully disclosed, will have a far reaching impact on the transport of hazardous material and the trafficking of illegal goods,” says Thato Tsautse, Senior Manager: Legal to South African Port Operations. It is now necessary to fully declare the contents of the container so that all players in the logistics chain from cargo owners to the ships agents, shipping lines, terminal operators and the road transporter know what they are moving.


“This new legislation will go a long way to clamping down on counterfeiting and reducing incidents such as the fire caused by chemicals on board a ship outside the Durban port late in 2003,” she says. But it is early days and it still remains to be seen if cargo owners comply. Thato is one of a handful of women countrywide who are maritime lawyers. There are so few in fact that she knows all her “colleagues” by name and can count them. Since joining SAPO three years ago Thato has set about putting the organisation’s legal house in order and making sure the cost of claims is reduced.

“When I joined, SAPO was paying out 80% on all claims without actually understanding the extent to which it was liable. In addition it was clear that many of the claims were inflated so there was little or no saving to the organisation.” Now under her guidance no claims are paid without a thorough investigation. Thato believes that the department’s interventions have saved SAPO a substantial amount due to the new measures being implemented.

For Thato joining SAPO’s legal department from civil practice was a rude awakening – the summonses were different, the jargon was different and everything was highly specialised. She had to do something to raise herself to the same level as “the guys” in private maritime practice. So she joined the Maritime Law Association (MLA) and Women’s International Shipping and Trade Association (WISTA). She also enrolled for a Masters in Maritime Studies at the University of Natal.

“I fell in love with maritime law - it is so different,” she says. Having completed her Masters Thato felt she still needed to advance and has enrolled for a PhD. Thato’s peers see her as a leader and pathfinder who constantly challenges the status quo. However she says she does not feel that she has done as much as she would like to educate women to know about their rights and fight for them.
While keeping up with a hectic business schedule she finds time to give her family the attention they deserve, do work for charity and teach Sunday School.


From ABET Teacher to Business Unit Manager

East London Business Unit Manager, Sharon Mgqolozana is a South African Port Operations success story. Sharon joined the then Portnet in 1996 as a revenue clerk in the Richards Bay financial department after completing her honours degree in administrations several years earlier.

When the organisation divisionalised she applied for a finance position in Port Elizabeth. She later took on the position of Adult Basic Education Training (ABET) teacher, a position she says gave her the best grounding for her future career.

In 2000, she was chosen as quality assurance assessor and one of 12 candidates for SAPO’s gender empowerment Women in Operations Initiative. However, her pregnancy prevented her from going to Rotterdam to study the logistics programme. Despite this minor setback, Sharon continued to rise up the ranks and was tasked with implementing the ISO 9002 programme initiated by General Manager Nosipho Damasane in 2001.


In June 2003, Sharon rose to the challenge of acting Car Terminal Manager, a position she filled for six months until she was appointed Business Unit Manager in November last year. Sharon said part of her success could be attributed to “mastering the art of human relations”.

“People will co-operate with you if you relate to people well and again having a first hand knowledge of the various departments within the organisation, I am able to understand the different pressures, needs and expectations.”


Sisters must do it for themselves


With plans to be a leading logistician in South Africa, Lorraine Curia, Support Services Manager at the Durban Car Terminal, is making her mark and adding value to her workplace.

In the past three years she has been responsible for the terminal achieving a National Occupational Safety Association NOSCAR award, being listed as a top 100 company in terms of safety and achieving an ISO 9001 quality certification. To achieve a NOSCAR rating an organisation has to achieve over 95% in safety efficiency.

With an honours degree in Industrial Psychology and diplomas in personnel management and training management, she started her career as a management and supervisory development consultant at the Portnet academy. In 2000 when the Women in Operations programme was launched she was selected as one of the candidates. The course took her to Rotterdam, one of the world’s leading ports, for port and containerised cargo training along with other delegates from around the world. It also introduced her to logistics - a topic she immediately found fascinating and she decided to pursue a career in this field. “The Women in Operations Initiative works for everyone but only to the degree of effort put in. It is up to each person to show that they can make the grade,” says Lorraine.

Lorraine has since completed the Women’s Development Initiative offered by SAPO and facilitated by the University of Pretoria and the Gordon Institute of Business Science, which included logistics and management and won the University of Pretoria’s top logistic student award. This was followed by the European Senior Logistician Programme in which she also won the Top Student Award. Lorraine is currently doing the European Master Logistician Programme.

Being in the driving seat of the Car Terminal’s achievement of the ISO 9001:2000 certification in the space of a year is a highlight of her career. But credit has to go to everyone at the terminal who worked tirelessly as a team to make the accreditation a reality. Lorraine believes it is important for women to seize the opportunity to make inroads into the very male dominated environment of the ports so that other women can follow in their footsteps.

Where are they now?

The remainder of the twelve candidates who successfully completed SAPO’s Women in Operations Initiative currently hold the following positions:

Juliet Nondyola - Operations Manager: Saldanha Bay Multi-purpose Terminal; Edwena Coetzee - Acting Operations Manager: Bulk Terminal Saldanha; Lucinda Erasmus - Acting Manager: Cape Town Combi Terminal; Dawn Sayster - Operations Manager: Port Elizabeth Container Terminal; Merrilyn van Rensburg: Continuous Improvement Manager: Durban Container Terminal; Thoko Chaincomo - Quality Assurance Manager: Durban Container Terminal; Precious Hadebe - understudy to the Business Unit Manager developing a new container terminal at MPT West; Asha Thakor - Planning Manager and Acting Operations Manager: Maydon Wharf Terminal; Thuli Mbuyazi - Operations Co-ordinator: Richards Bay Multi-purpose Terminal.


SAPO Fact: Did you know that the only three Car Terminals in the country are all managed by women


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