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Fri Dec 19 10:00:22 SAST 2014

Mariner's crowning

Nashira Davids | 30 April, 2012 00:07
Commander Handsome Thamsanqa Matsane stands in the conning tower of the SAS Queen Modjadji as he becomes the first black naval commander of a South African submarine. File photo.
Image by: DEAN WINGRIN

Betty Mashabane, of Bushbuckridge, went crazy when she saw her grandson, Handsome Thamsanqa Matsane, on television. And when he mentioned her name, her excitement level went through the roof.

This is because Matsane has made history in the SA Navy.

In the month the navy turned 90, he became the service's first black submarine commander.

"She is my inspiration. Funny that she does not have an education, but when we were young and suffering she would say 'Education will help you get through'," said Matsane.

Matsane said that though his grandmother was happy when she heard about his achievement, it sank in only when she saw him on television.

The 34-year-old took command of the SAS Queen Modjadji on Thursday at a ceremony at the Simon's Town naval base in Cape Town.

"It is not going to be easy. This is another difficult task for me but it is one you want to achieve when you're a combat officer."

Matsane has an impressive academic record. He was the best mathematics student at the Military Academy, in Saldanha.

"I am not good at languages but give me any number problem and I will have a solution," said the father of two.

After obtaining his bachelor's degree in military science and serving as a combat officer he decided to take up "another challenge" by joining the navy's submarine squadron in 2007.

Matsane went on to become the executive officer of the SAS Charlotte Maxeke.

The submarine squadron, he said, needs more "manpower" but, he admitted, the risks were high.

"We do need more people to join. The majority of people on submarines are technical so we also need people with maths and science backgrounds."

Space on board the submarine is limited.

There is no gym on board and if something goes wrong "you must be prepared not to shower for a week" said Matsane.

While encouraging men to become submariners, Matsane is also urging women to take up the challenge.

"Some are still in training but there are about 15 women in the squadron, who first joined in 2006."

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