Lieutenant Commander Zimasa Petronella Mabela this week took command of the SA Navy mine counter-measures vessel SAS Umhloti becoming the first African woman to command at sea.
She took over command of the vessel during a parade at the Armscor Dockyard in Simon’s town from Commander Brian Short in what the maritime arm of the SA National Defence Force said in a statement was another indication of progress in transformation.
Mabela is originally from Lady Frere in Eastern Cape and joined the Navy in 1999 as a rating. She completed military training for ratings part one at SAS Saldanha and went on to finish telecommunications radio part one before being staffed on the SAS Drakensberg.
In 2004 she finished military training for officers part one at Gordon’s Bay before moving on to combat officer qualifying at the Maritime Warfare Training Centre in December the same year. She joined the ship’s company of the Valour class frigate SAS Isandlwana in 2005 and was appointed assistant operations officer, where she obtained Officer of the Day qualification. In 2006 Mabela obtained her Bridge Watchkeeping Certificate and was subsequently appointed as Assistant Weapons Officer.
Her appointment comes at the end of Women’s Month which will be marked at two different fuinctions before month-end by Defence and Military Veterans Minister, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula.
The Minister will be the main functionary at a parade in Thaba Tshwane tomorrow where about 500 women in uniform are expected to be on parade.
On Saturday she will be part of a gathering in Port Elizabeth to honour military veterans, particularly women, from across the Nelson Mandela metro.