With all the pride and poise of a military commander, he stands on the bridge with a 360-degree view of the busy Durban harbour below. Slowly he casts his gaze across the tranquil waters, as a few of the tugboats under his command pull a container ship out to sea.
Sitting here at his office overlooking the harbour, it’s hard to believe that Captain Rufus Lekala was born inland, in the village of Kutupu in Limpopo.
He seems entirely at home on the edge of the ocean and he’s certainly found his destiny in the sea. The down-to-earth father of two, who began life as a taxi driver, is a constant reminder to us all that our destiny is in our own hands.
Rufus (41) is the first black chief harbour master in South Africa, which means he oversees operations to all eight of South Africa’s ports: Richards Bay, Durban, East London, Ngqura, Port Elizabeth, Mossel Bay, Cape Town and Saldanha Bay.
He’s also the youngest chief harbour master in the world, no mean feat considering that South Africa is one of the 40 leading maritime nations of the world and that our coastline stretches for almost 30 000 km across four provinces, from the KwaZulu-Natal north coast to the Northern Cape.
“My life has been a fairytale,” says Rufus, who first set foot in the ocean at the age of 26.
“It’s really amazing that one can move from rags to riches by working hard. I was very lucky to have a mother who kept me focused. She instilled a culture of reading in me, even though she couldn’t read.”
His mother, Debra (92), was a domestic worker and always encouraged him to follow his dream regardless of adversity. Now he’s been able to achieve his dream of building her a decent home in Kutupu.
Read more about Rufus' rise to fame in DRUM, 14 July 2011.