The Sunday News

Bruce Ndlovu, Sunday Life Reporter 

AS she flew the Cessna172 around Grand Central Airspace in South Africa last Thursday, Inobubele Dube (21) was at the climax of a 10-year-old dream.  

As a child she had always been curious how this metallic bird defied gravity, zigzagging through the air as if in stylish defiance of laws set by God. After finding herself on the inside of a plane at the age of 10, she had vowed that she would one day be back again. This time, instead of being in the belly of one of these giant birds, she would be inside its head, in the cockpit. 

“I can safely say it was in 2009, when I was 10 years old that I got this dream to fly. It was my first flying experience. I always used to wonder, as a child, how such a big machine could keep from falling from the sky, I was absolutely fascinated. So after that first flight all I knew was I wanted to be the one who kept it in the sky,” she told Sunday Life before the first ever flight she piloted took off. 

For two hours Dube, who has been learning from the best at Flight Training Services in Midrand, South Africa, since March last year, circled the skies with carefree abandon. 

However, life wasn’t always such smooth sailing for the would-be pilot when she was growing up in the shadow of the hills and mountains of Gwanda. After having a less than privileged upbringing under the care of her loving parents, Dube said it was only through the grace of her Maker that she had managed to make it to the sky on Thursday afternoon. 

 “I’m from Gwanda, Zimbabwe, and I’m the first of two daughters. I went to Matopo High School for my O-levels and Premier High School for my A-levels. The only way I am where I am is by grace, I myself could never have opened the doors the God continues to open for me.

“Growing up, I was always a clever child so my parents sacrificed a lot for me to go to the best schools they could afford. Being the first of two girls, I learnt responsibility fast and was always told to set a good example for my younger sister, and so I did. Though we didn’t always have the flashiest things, my parents raised us with love and I adore them for that,” she said.

While only the sky might be the limit now, growing up she did not feel remarkable as she did not possess the material wealth of her peers. 

“I admittedly could not attain some of the things my friends could get, fancy clothes or the latest gadgets, and at that age that sometimes makes you feel like an outcast,” she said.

While life might not have been rosy, Dube said she had never accepted that as her fate in life. 

“Your past or current circumstances can never define who you want to be. If you do what is easy you will stay exactly where you are. Dare to dream bigger and broader because life is not limited to what you see, the sky is the beginning of the limit! You are so much stronger than you think so never let anybody tell you what you can and can’t do,” she said.

While many a young person in Gwanda might gaze around and wish they could find themselves in the bright lights of some bigger metropolitan city somewhere, for Dube redemption would not come from where she grew up. It would come in the form of Gwanda born and bred business mogul Justice Maphosa, who would identify her as an unpolished gem from the mineral rich town. Despite her humble background, she set herself apart from the rest early on and caught the businesman’s eye, eventually becoming the first beneficiary of his Big Time Aviation Bursary.     

“I think when we met for the first time he could see the passion and drive in my ambitions, he questioned me quite a bit, trying to gauge just how hungry I was for my dreams,” he said. 

While Maphosa had been her guardian angel in her 21-year-old life, Dube said she drew inspiration from other Zimbabwean women who had found themselves in the cockpit.

“I admired Chipo Matimba, one of the first female pilots in Zimbabwe, from a distance. I told myself that if she could do it then so could I. There were times when I thought I would never be able to make my dreams a reality, when I thought I just wasn’t strong enough or smart enough, but my parents helped me keep the faith,” she said.

The self-confessed avid reader who loves cooking and singing, said she was as comfortable on the ground as she was on air, as she had recently taken up hiking occasionally with a couple of friends. 

“It’s an absolutely wonderful way to get away from the hustle and bustle of everything else,” she said.

The aviation bursary is part of Maphosa’s efforts to uplift youths in Gwanda and other parts of Zimbabwe and South Africa which include educational bursaries and the refurbishment and construction of a new classroom block, computer room and staff room in Mthatha.