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African Commander Handsome Thamsanqa Matsane has become the first black officer to assume command of a submarine in Africa. In a ceremony held at Simon’s Town Naval Base in Cape Town, Commander Matsane took over command of the submarine SAS Queen Modjadji I.

Matsane joined the South African Navy in 1998. He served on three ships prior to his appointment, the SAS Drakensberg, the SAS Isandlwana and SAS Spioenkop before transferring to the submarine squadron. Prior to his current command, Matsane served as Executive Officer aboard SAS Charlotte Maxeke.

One of the many challenges for officers aboard a submarine was the strenuous training and little-to-no sleep in a 48-hour period. This was one challenge Commander Matsane had to overcome after switching to the squadron. He not only excelled, but he climbed the ranks to Commander and made South African history.

Ironically, the Commander’s ceremony took place the day before South Africa’s Freedom Day, which is celebrated on April 27th and commemorates the first post-apartheid elections held on that day in 1994.

As Commander Matsane readies the SAS Queen Modjadji I, he is looking for qualified individuals for his crew. According to the Commander, there have only been roughly 1,050 South African men and women who fit the qualifications for a submarine crew since 1969.

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