Mbalentle Zweni is a year 17-year-old matric student born in Johannesburg but currently based in Khayelitsha. In 2018, she was the only learner in her class chosen to enrol for an aviation programme run by the South African Air Force. Students are trained on simulators that prepare them for solo flying. It’s not every day that you find a kasi teenager with a passion for flying, so we had a chat with her to find out what inspired her.
Ndibulele Sotondoshe: Please tell us more about yourself.
Mbalentle Zweni: My full name is Siphokazi Mbalentle Zweni. I was born and bred in Johannesburg. I am one of two amazing daughters in an average home. My childhood was good, characterised by stable responsive, caring relationships in my family and the community at large. I was raised in a nurturing environment that encouraged me to explore and engage safely with the world around me.
NS: We first met you in a winter school programme in 2018. How would you describe yourself as a learner?
MZ: I have been and still am the type of a learner who takes leadership in their own learning and I am always engaging with the world around me. And I am driven mostly by my curiosity for almost everything occurring around me. I always push through challenges and rise against all odds. I must also add that I am determined to succeed. I also have what I like to call inner motivation and self-discipline.
NS: What would you say has been your greatest strength in life so far?
MZ: My ability to learn from mistakes as well as discipline and determination. I think they came from within because it’s one of those decisions I had to make that no matter how I feel or what I am going through I must get up, show up and never give up. I live by the words of one the most brilliant minds that ever lived, Dr Martin Luther King, who once said, “If you can’t fly then run. If you can’t run then walk. If you can’t walk then crawl. Just keep moving forward.”
NS: That’s powerful! Talking about flying, please tell us more about your passion for aviation.
MZ: Aviation is what I like to call my first love. I don’t remember a time where I was not drawn to being in the sky. I feel transported in getting to see the world from a whole different angle. I am choosing aviation to fulfil my lifelong passion. Secondly, aviation grants me an opportunity to view life from a different perspective. Not only do pilots get a bird’s-eye view of seeing the world, but their job experiences can prove humbling as they realise the magnitude of the skies around them. And of course when I was thinking about my career choice I had to be sensible or think about earning a living so Aviation is of the most financially rewarding careers.
NS: You’re now in your last year of high school, what are your career aims after matric?
MZ: I would like to pursue a career in aviation to become a co-pilot for the Special Forces. In 2018, I was enrolled with the SA Air Force Base YDP as an Aerotec/ Young Falcon. The applicants had to be doing Math and Physical Science with an average of 80%. Everyone in my class was given an opportunity to apply. However, I was the only one who got accepted. I was given an opportunity to fly a low-flying aircraft around Cape Town to show the skills I had acquired in the duration of the programme.
NS: Where do you see yourself in 5-10 years?
MZ: I see myself occupying the highest position in the Emirates Air Line.
NS: What is that one thing that keeps you going?
MZ: My strong desire to become the highest version of myself is one thing that keeps me going even when I encounter massive obstacles.
NS: Why is it important for you to become the highest version of yourself?
MZ: It’s very important because it simply means that I am evolving and willing to shred my old self. It also means getting back to your quintessential self. As straightforward as that sounds, it’s anything but authentic self-discovery.
NS: Anything else you want us to know about Mbalentle?
MZ: I am a great example of an old African Proverb that says, “It takes the whole village to raise a child.” I am extremely proud to say I have been raised by the whole community. My deepest gratitude is dedicated to noble mothers and fathers who assisted in cultivating a value-driven girl out of me.
NS: Your last words before we go?
MZ: Never let your head hang down. Never give up and sit down and grieve. Find another way. And don’t pray when it rains if you don’t pray when the sun shines.
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