Zuks Ramasia

Empower a Woman and you Empower a Community

The vibrant, inspiring and utterly wonderful Zuks Ramasia first fell in love with aviation as a child on the dusty streets of Vosloorus, just south of Boksburg in Ekurhuleni, Gauteng. As a child, she would look up at the sky as aeroplanes flew overhead and say to herself, “I am going to be up there. I am going to be up there one day!”

After 28 years in aviation with SAA, this ‘’tourism child” is now the CEO of the Board of Airline Representatives of South Africa (BARSA), which she describes as the single voice for all airlines that come into South Africa. Zuks joined BARSA in May, in the eye of COVID’s storm – and is now 100% focussed on returning aircraft to the sky.

“The one single thing we are seized with is to ensure that we return aircraft back to the sky. All my energy, and not just me alone, TBCSA, inbound recovery, Wesgro, we are all working together. It saddens me that there are no aircraft in the sky – and you know how aviators want to be in the sky!”

Taking to the skies

For Zuks, it is vital that South Africa’s borders open soon, and her passion is palpable: “It is not about aircraft going up and down, it’s about the economy of our country.”

Commenting on the importance of her industry, Zuks says that “aviation is an enabler”. It is the common denominator, connecting friends and family, business travellers, tourists and countries. In Zuks’s words, “aircraft create the global village” – allowing travel to be easy, business to be nimble and people to be enriched.

This idea of ‘enrichment’ is important to Zuks. She gives the example of visiting Ghana, saying, “If you visit Ghana, eat the food in Ghana, go to the tourism sites in Ghana, interact with the people in Ghana, do everything there is to do, so you become open-minded.”

“This is so true of South Africa too,” says Zuks. “It’s important for our SMMEs, youth and women. It’s vital that we open our borders.”

And she believes that the aviation sector, in terms of bio-security, is more than ready: “The protocols we have in place, are not just for domestic travel, because the exposure is the same, whether you are travelling for VFR (visiting friends and relatives) or leisure – the protocols are meant for everybody. Rest assured, our protocols, from end to end, from booking to arriving on the other side, they say only one thing: if you accept one customer, another customer is equally safe.”

Of ceilings and elevators

After 28 years in an industry where the majority of decision makers are men, Zuks has shattered a few glass ceilings along the way. And when it comes to her career, Zuks is determined not to go it alone:

“When I’m in, I’m not going to be there alone. I started motivating other women, ‘girls, you’re coming with me!’ The more I gained in confidence, the more I shared my confidence, telling other women, ‘if I can do it, why can’t you do it?’”

Zuks’ enthusiasm is infectious, and her determination to empower other women shines through. She uses an ‘elevator’ analogy, saying that if you’re headed to the top, you climb into the lift with other women, and adding with her characteristic warmth and humour, “Don’t just aim to be the first. It’s cold up there – bring other women with.”

Zuks extends this thinking to the tourism sector as a whole: “When you are entrusted with a position of power, you have a responsibility to empower other women. And if you have broken the glass ceiling you have even more of a responsibility to do the right thing.”

Not a hard ask, because as far as Zuks is concerned “whatever a woman touches, it thrives.”

“We actually do ourselves a favour when we encourage and build other women because in the past it was the men who went to the cities to work and left the women at home to look after the community. Women are so important, in that sense, being that they were the ones left to empower the community. Now when you empower a woman, you empower a community.”

Going forward, Zuks sees “a goodness in working together and building friendships”. “Collectiveness in tourism is so essential now,” Zuks says, “As we are basically starting from scratch after all that has been lost with the lockdown.”

And a little parting advice? “You can’t sit in the corner and think things will be handed to you. No, you need to raise your hand and voice, and make yourself heard. Make others aware that you want to serve and be in front.”

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“You can’t sit in the corner and think things will be handed to you. No, you need to raise your hand and voice, and make yourself heard. Make others aware that you want to serve and be in front.”