Mary Phadi is a remarkable woman — she has run a successful commercial trucking business, Basadi Logistics, for about 17 years and she is the president of the Truckers Association of South Africa (Tasa) — in a male-dominated industry, that comes with its own set of challenges.
Mary, 49, who grew up in the small town of Cornelia in the Free State, had led Tasa successfully since its inception, competing with existing trucking organisations that have a financially stronger muscle, influence and experience.
Tasa, which advocates for road freight operators in South Africa, called for the re-regulation of the industry after it was deregulated in 1988 to ensure the sector is transformed. It launched the first South African freight awards in October 2022 to recognise excellence in the industry.
Under her leadership, Tasa also started the first safety awareness campaign in December 2022, because of the increase of fatalities on the roads involving trucks. Mary was appointed the national chairperson of the South African Network of Women in Transport from 2009 and she is the spokesperson for the Coal Transporters Forum.
She has striven to empower women through pushing for policies and ensuring women have the technical skills needed to excel in the sector. She has also helped increase the number of women obtaining operating permits in the transport industry.
An achievement of which she is proud is that her heavy duty commercial vehicle company has a clean safety record with no fatalities.
What is the best piece of advice you've ever been given?
Don’t throw in the towel, the fight is not over.
Our theme this year is Accelerating Equality & Empowerment in Women. How do you empower yourself and women around you?
The growth of women is very slow in the freight industry. The percentage of women truckers is less than 10% and they are not empowered in South Africa as operators. In 2007, the department of transport established the South African Network of Women in Transport and I was appointed as the national chairperson in 2009. I saw my role as an opportunity to empower women in the transport industry, to represent women, to train women in technical skills needed to excel in the industry and to give them agency as a decisionmakers. My experience as the national chairperson for seven years made me realise that we need funding, support systems and training for women in this industry.
If you could change or achieve one thing for South Africa today, what would it be?
To see women as owners and dominating the freight industry. To see equal opportunities for all. To see the operators in the road freight industry protected from unfair practices, such as unfair rates that the industry is using to under pay operators. To reverse the injustice in the freight industry. To see the government funding the freight industry.