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Commander Tsietsi Mokhele is the Chairperson of the Maritime Heritage Institute (MHI) and immediate past Chief Executive Officer of the South African Maritime Safety Authority (2008 – 2016). 

His maritime career started in 1987 when, he got a scholarship to the Caspian Higher Naval College in the Soviet Union, qualifying as a Naval Officer on completion of his BSc Equivalent Degree (Ship Navigation, Command) in 1991.

In 1993/1994 he was appointed as the Co-Chairperson of the Navy Integration Work Group at the Joint Military Co-ordination Committee (JMCC). The JMCC was a body put together, following the multi-party negotiations between mainly the ANC and Nationalist Party government, constituting a transitional government formation charge with the development and implementation of the strategy and policies for the integration of the multiple military formations in South Africa. As the Co-chairperson, Commander Mokhele was charged with not only representing the interests of the ANC but also to co-design a new Naval Organization which would be capable of serving the democratic government of the day and uphold the democratic constitution in South Africa. For that role he played within the JMCC he is a proud recipient of the Commendation of the Chief of the Navy.

After the Navy integration process, and between 1994-1997; he proudly joined the SA Navy as a Commander, put on the uniform of the new SA National Defence Force (SANDF) and served his country as a Senior Officer. 

Having completed the Executive Defence Management programme earlier in 1994 at Wits University, Commander Mokhele left the SA Navy in 1997. From 1997 through to 1999, he pursued his private enterprise, through his company - Breakthrough Management and information Service cc, consulting mainly in Organisational Strategy, Policy, Leadership and Change Management.

In 1999 Commander Mokhele was head hunted to join the Transnet National Ports Authority. His initial appointment was in the area of Change Leadership and Business Transformation and was subsequently appointed as the Executive Manager responsible for Marine Services. He led the successful turnaround strategy to transform and modernise the Marine Business into an effective and competitive service where he introduced successful maritime career awareness programmes, trained and employed the first women and black people in technical and senior managerial roles and changed the fortunes of the Organisation by achieving an over 500% financial turnaround. 

When Commander Mokhele was appointed as the Chief Executive Officer of SAMSA in 2008, he immediately embarked upon and executed with great success a turn-around and repositioning strategy. This has resulted in a growing partnership between SAMSA and the maritime industry in South Africa, which has in-turn enabled SAMSA to improve its financial position by over 400% and staff capacity by over 100% to be equal to the task of executing on its mandate. The Authority has also assumed commanding heights at the international fora where the global maritime agenda is shaped and influenced.

Commander Mokhele has been driving strategic initiatives to make South Africa a leading maritime nation and an International Maritime Services Centre, with a focus on building a national merchant fleet, coastal shipping services, and maritime-linked industrial development, using the sector to create jobs and integrate South Africa and the African transport network into global maritime logistics systems for increased trade. In order to develop contribution of the maritime sector to the economy of South Africa, 


In order to increase the contribution of the maritime sector to the economy of South Africa, Commander Mokhele saw the need to have an effective coordination of quality education and research and in this regard provided leadership for SAMSA to partner with the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) in establishing the first South African International Maritime Institute (SAIMI) located within NMMU to provide maritime professional courses.  


Given Commander’s leadership, the maritime industry has been recognised as an important economic sector under Operation Phakisa which is an Economic Transformation Programme methodology launched in 2014 by President Jacob Zuma. The first implementation of such a programme focused on – “Unlocking the Economic Potential of South Africa’s Oceans”. Operation Phakisa aimed at growing the ocean economy and other sectors is the 9th point of the government’s nine-point implementation strategy for the National Development Plan. 


Commander Mokhele was also very instrumental in the acquisition of South Africa’s first dedicated training vessel, the SA Agulhas, which is among the five (5) dedicated training vessels in the world in order to train South Africa’s Sea Cadets. In 2013, under Commander’s leadership, 30 South Africans were sent to the World Maritime University (WMU) in Malmo, Sweden to obtain their Post-Graduate qualifications in Masters and PHD’s in various maritime disciplines. They graduated in November 2014 and have since returned to the country to take up various employments in the maritime industry. Another 12 South African students were sent to WMU in 2014 to also undertake various disciplines in maritime.  

Commander Mokhele also played a pivotal role in providing strategic thought leadership towards the development of the first ever African Integrated Maritime Strategy 2050 (AIM 2050 Strategy) which was adopted by the African Heads of States in January 2014. He was also very instrumental in lobbying the African Union to inaugurate July 25 of every year as the African Day of Seas and Oceans and July 2015-2025 as the African Maritime Decade. Commander Mokhele currently the interim Chairperson of the Association of African Maritime Administrations (AAMA) which is an association of all the maritime administrations and authorities on the African Continent.  

Commander Mokhele has received many honours and awards. These include the Maritime Newsmaker of the Year (2010), Businessman of the Year (2011), Platinum Visionary (2011), Best Public Sector Leader 2012, Best Public Service Organisation 2012 and Africa Transport Personality of the Year (2012). Others include the Oliver Empowerment Lifetime Achievement Award (2013) and Africa Maritime Agency of the Year (2012 & 2013) based on his contribution in Maritime Skills Development Programmes and Shipping. Commander Tsietsi Mokhele was also a finalist in the Top Empowered Public Service Leader of 2015 by the Oliver Empowerment Awards. 

Outside of the maritime industry, Commander Mokhele is very involved in the development of hi community in the Vaal area in Gauteng. A cursory scan of his past include serving the liberation movement – ANC and MK, as a freedom fighter, serving time in detention, underground and in exile where he lived, stayed and served in a countless number of countries, including Tanzania where he served in various roles and military camps, including as Second Officer in Command and later as Officer in Command at Mgagao and Kidete Military Camp, respectively. He is particularly proud of the roles in Tanzania since they coincided with the return of MK soldiers to South Africa. The period of 1989 – 1993 were dedicated to transforming the MK force from predominantly guerilla formations to regular force disciplines. 

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