There is a pride that comes with being the first. But many forget that that milestone is a product of hardworking, grit andabeatin the odds like Commander Handsome Matsane did.
Commander Handsome Matsane is the first black man to be given command of a submarine in Africa.The event took place on April 26, 2012 when he assumed command of the South African Navy’s Type 209 submarine, SAS Queen Modjadji.
It all started in 1998 when Matsane enlisted with the South African Navy. By December of that year, he completed his Military Training for Officers Part 1. With this done with, he proceeded to obtaining a degree in Military Science through the University of Stellenbosch at the Military Academy in Saldanha, going on to complete the educational requirements for assumingacommand of a naval submarine.
His rise to submarine commander saw Matsane serve as Executive Officer aboard SAS Charlotte Maxeke, the SAS Isandlwana, and SAS Spioenkop before transferring to the submarine squadron.
The native of Bushbuckridge, a city in Mpumalanga province, continued to be exceptional at his job and earned himself an invite from the Chilean navy to serve on one of its training vessels for junior officers, the ship BE Esmeralda.
It was not all smooth-sailing for Mafsane as the road to becoming commander was fraught with challenges. One of thesẹ was the demanding training demanded of officers aboard a submarine. This includes a 48-hour period with little to no sleep.
He passed this in flying colours and in the event made African and South African history by becoming the first submarine commander.
To better appreciate this feat, bear in mind that he did in a post-apartheid South Africa that has not totally incorporated the black community into the many spheres of life.
As we hail this accomplishment, remember that the world makes way for the (wo)man who knows where s/he is headed.