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'The women in my life all worked hard': Nerina Skuy’s journey from District Six to CEO

09 August 2020 - 16:46 By Paul Ash
On the locomotove footplate, from left to right, Gary Ruddy (driver/fireman, Vernon Petzer (steam fitter), Nerina Skuy (CEO) and Hennie van Rooyen (pilot and driver).
On the locomotove footplate, from left to right, Gary Ruddy (driver/fireman, Vernon Petzer (steam fitter), Nerina Skuy (CEO) and Hennie van Rooyen (pilot and driver).
Image: Tom Matthews

The road from Cape Town's District Six to sitting in the driver’s seat as CEO of the company that runs Port Elizabeth's famed Apple Express has not been an easy one.

One of Nerina Skuy’s earliest memories is of security police raiding their house in District Six, while her father was in detention, and stomping holes in the ceiling as they searched in the roof.

She was 12 when the bulldozers levelled their home and her father moved the family to Durban to look for work.

For most of her teenage years, Skuy was at Durban station at 6am every weekday to catch the train to Isipingo where she went to high school. The journey involved a 3km hike from the station to the school and back in time to catch the late afternoon train home.

“I loved the train,” she said. “I read books and did my homework. But it was a long day.”

Her role models were her mother and grandmothers who made the best out of limited means and opportunities.

“The women in my life all worked hard,” she said.

Now she is one of the only women in rail preservation in SA, a world dominated by white men, and she has had more encounters with unreformed diehards than she cares to remember.

“People don’t take us seriously,” she said. “But I have proved that it doesn’t matter where you come from but that a woman of colour is able to run a successful rail operation.”

Now Skuy continues to ignore her doubters as she forges ahead with her dream of one day seeing the Apple Express steam all the way to its old railhead, 278km up at the top of the Langkloof valley.

It would be best not to underestimate her.

TimesLIVE


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