Meet minibus driver Sekai

Written by on May 23, 2019


IT IS not common to see a young woman confidently behind the steering wheel of a public passenger bus on the rough streets of Zambia’s capital, Lusaka, let alone in the chaotic bus station. But Sekai Makweja has decided to plunge into the river and face the crocodiles as one of Zambia’s few female drivers.

At the age of 28, Sekai is a holder of the prestigious Class CE driver’s licence and currently works at Flash Capital Buses. The Sun caught up with her and below is her story:

The Sun: Kindly tell us about yourself.

Sekai: My name is Sekai Makweja. I come from the central part of Zambia, Chibombo district, in particular. I was born in 1991 and I lost my mother when I was only seven years old.

I spent most of the time with my grandparents. Everything was so okay for me as a child that I never even thought twice of what would happen next because I had everything that every child deserves.

I was positive that I would go to a nursing school or go for some training so that I could become a soldier after completing high school, not knowing that life had so many surprises in store for me.

The Sun: Kindly tell what happened to your dream of becoming a nurse.

Sekai: It all began in 2009 when I was in Grade 12. I lost my older sister when I was in term one and as if this was not enough, I again lost my father in term two when I was sitting for my mock examinations.

And these were the people that I knew would take me to college and give me everything I would ever need. So life just turned like that for me and things got tough.

Everything just went off. I asked myself what I would do and where I would go from that point.

The Sun: How did you manage to raise money from the last term, among other needs?

Sekai: I started selling fritters so I could raise money for my last term and college. I could not start asking people for money to pay for my college [education] because I knew I would be a drop-out at some point, looking at the way most relatives had disappeared after my father died.

After some time, I came to Lusaka and started cleaning and washing cars and selling car cleaning products.

The Sun: What followed, then?

Sekai: Most people looked down on me. They called me names especially that I am a woman. My fellow workmates would also tease me that my friends were breaking plates in the kitchens while I was busy cleaning cars, but I did not mind them because I knew where I was coming from.

The Sun: Did you manage to raise enough some money for school?

Sekai: I managed to raise some money and went to the Industrial Training Centre (ITC) here in Lusaka where I managed to get my C Class driver’s licence.

After that, I tried to look for a job here and there but it was not easy because of my gender.

Most employers doubted if I could deliver because they believed the saying that women cannot do the job as men can. So I went back to wash cars before I started moving around again looking for a job because at this stage I had accepted that driving was my career.

After searching for some time I was almost employed by Mr Noel Kankara, the proprietor of Flash Capital buses last year to drive one of his buses. Unfortunately, I could not start because of the class of my licence, especially that they only have red number plate vehicles.

The Sun: What did you do then?

Sekai: I wanted to go back to the driving school, but I did not have enough money. So I decided to work as a bus conductor so that I could raise money so that I could acquire the relevant licence class.

This was the only option I had at this point.

The Sun: How did you find the new job?

Sekai: It was scary for me in the beginning knowing how these guys behave. Most of them insult, smoke and drink alcohol. I was so scared that I might see myself getting bruised and losing my teeth in the process.

But nothing like that happened. I have come to understand that these people are not as bad as they seem to be. They are good people.

Working with them was awesome, and I remember people asking me how I was managing in that world. After some time, I stopped working as a conductor and went back to school, and this time around I managed to get a Class CE licence.

I can now boast that I cannot only drive a bus but also heavy trucks laden with dangerous goods like acids, copper, sulphur among others. I went back to Mr Kankara and I was given a bus to work with.

The Sun: What are your plans?

Sekai: Definitely, I want to go to college and study the course of my choice. At least I have my past and where I come from. I thank Mr Kankara for doing his best in employing female drivers.

The sun: How have you been managing working in a field that is believed to be for men only?

Sekai: Being a bus driver is not easy; it is challenging. That is my office and I have to make sure I take people to their specific destinations and move with people.

Most men look down on me being a lady, but at the end of the day I have to put up the challenge and show them what I can do.

The Sun: Your words of encouragement to fellow youths, especially women, out there?

Sekai: I would want to encourage my fellow youths out there not to rely on people to give them money or jobs. Let them find within themselves what they can do best and people will always come to help when they see the potential in them.

Let them not just sit at home complaining about the government not creating jobs for them.

I was treated badly, people took what belonged to me but I am not complaining because life has humbled me.

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