Meet Tatenda Makundo the only female air controller at Joshua Nkomo Airport

Many professions, such as engineering and electronics, to mention a few are widely dominated by men, with women preferring to take a back seat or totally shunning such jobs for secretarial or waitressing.


While in most cases that is the case, a 39-year-old woman dared to venture into a male dominated industry, with her eyes set on button-holing that perception.

Growing up in Hatfield, Harare, it never once crossed Tatenda Makunde’s mind that she would one day be deemed as one of the few women working at an airport, not as an air hostess or attendant but an air traffic controller.

Presently based in Bulawayo and being the only female air controller at Bulawayo’s Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo International Airport, Makunde has even managed to rise through the ranks to become the senior air traffic controller.

She opened up to Sunday Life Reporter Ntombiyolwandle Ndlovu about her journey to the top.
Air Traffic Controller Ms Tatenda Makundo enjoying her work in the Control tower at JMN International airport in Bulawayo on Wednesday…
Arriving at the airport last week the Sunday Life crew had to go through security procedures, such as being searched before getting to Makunde’s office that is obviously housed at the air traffic controller tower.

Upon entering her office, which is equipped with numerous computers, microphones and telephones, the Sunday Life crew had the opportunity to see her in action, where she had just given an instruction for an Air Zimbabwe Boeing 703 to land coming from Harare.

Speaking in aviation language, Makunde gave a number of instructions to the pilots before attending to the news crew.

“When l was growing up I wanted to be a scientist, as I did sciences for my A-levels. In actual fact I wanted to be a doctor but little did I know that God had other plans for me,” Makunde said.


She noted that after completing her tertiary education, where she studied natural sciences at a private college, she didn’t know what she wanted to do with her life.

“After I finished my tertiary education, my uncle advised me about an advert that had been published in the newspaper, which was about a vacancy on this profession.

“I was called for interviews and I was very nervous at that time since I had never imagined being in such a profession. Later, I was then called and I was told I got the job. I then started working at the airport in the year 1999,” said Makunde.

Makunde went on to express her joy in bagging such a job.

“My job is very fun. I don’t even notice that I am the only female in the office, as we work as a family. However, during my first days it was not easy trying to adapt in a male dominated environment. Right now we are well and working as a team,” she said.

Makunde mentioned that even though she had an exciting job, it too like any other job had its highs and lows.

Air Traffic Controllers Ms Tatenda Makundo (seated) her Supervisor Mr Fanuel Chinyavuda, and a colleague Allan Manema share a lighter moment in the control tower at JMN international airport on Wednesday…
“Being in charge and in control of a big aircraft carrying 100 plus people is my area of high pressure. However, there are drawbacks for being responsible for everything that happens. In an event something does not go right I am answerable to everything. During the hunting season we get busy and have many planes to control in our space and they come in numbers,” she said.

Makunde added that her first daunting task was to land the President’s plane.

“The day I will never forget is when I controlled the landing of the VVIP plane with our President on board in the year 2000. I wanted everything done well, as it was my first time controlling a plane with such an important person,” she said.

In parting she said she did not believe that there was anything called a man or woman’s job.

“There is nothing called a man’s job, anyone can do any job, as long as they are able to do it. The sky is the limit and nothing should hold back anyone. We might fall here and there but we have to get up and continue working,” she said. Sunday News

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