Yesterday, the 4th April 2011, eighteen young South Africans signed up to save the country’s democracy! Forgive for a moment the hyperbole and let me explain:
Yesterday 18 students were officially welcomed as the first entrants into the SAMSA (South African Maritime Safety Authority) Cadet Programme in Simons Town. Seated in a lecture hall at the South African Maritime Training Academy (SAMTRA), each of them received a warm hand shake from the CEO of SAMSA, Commander Tsietsi Mokhele and were motivated by his call to action.
The commander was not only aiming to welcome these new recruits; he was lighting a fire under each of them in the hope that they would realise the very unique and important position that they are in. For him they are not just 18 lucky youngsters who have been given an opportunity to complete their maritime training with sea time; they represent the future potential of some 35 000 future South African seafarers.
If successful the SAMSA Cadet Programme, which aims to place 140 cadets by the end of the year, will expand to place 480 cadets at sea by the end of 2012. But that’s not all. Mokhele sees the programme expanding by 50 percent year on year with the eventual aim of placing 2000 cadets at sea EVERY year.
So how does this scheme hope to save South Africa’s democracy? Well as the Commander points out: the maritime industry is not about ships – it’s about the world’s economy. “Your country needs you more than you know,” he said. “Without the maritime industry there will be no trade. Without trade we cannot improve the standards of living of our people and without improved standards of living there will be no future for our democracy. This is not about ships – this is about the future of our country!”
And so 18 youngsters signed up for more than just a career at sea!
For more information about the SAMSA Cadet Programme get the March/April 2011 issue of Maritime Southern Africa.