Struggle nurse laid to rest at home

Kholeka Rosemond Tuniswa-Shabani was one of 20 South African nurses who were recruited to work in Tanzania to improve nursing in that country after it gained its independence. PICTURE: DENOSA

This past weekend, on Saturday, the Eastern Cape Provincial Government paid its final respects to the late Nursing Sister Kholeka Rosemond Tunyiswa-Shabani at a Special Provincial Official Funeral service held at the Nangoza Jebe Community Hall in Gqeberha.

Tunyiswa-Shabani, born on November 29, 1936, might not be well-known in South Africa since, along with her older sister Edith Tunyiswa, she left the country at the age of 25 for Tanzania, where she worked as a nurse with 19 other nurses who were also recruited from the country as well.

On March 5, 2023, Tunyiswa-Shabani, 87, passed away in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. On March 6, she was cremated in Dar es Salaam during a private family ceremony. In 1967, she married and began a family in Tanzania.

The Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa (DENOSA) was among the nurses at OR Tambo International Airport and Chief Stuurman International Airport in Gqebera on March 21 and 22, where they welcomed home the remains of one of the nursing pioneers who was among the 20 nurses who were recruited by the South African liberation movement to aid in reviving nursing in the post-independent state of Tanzania at the request of President Julius Nyerere in 1961 following the end of colonialism.

The Minister of the National Department of Sports, Arts, and Culture, Zizi Kodwa gave the eulogy on behalf of the government.

“May you be consoled by the fact that she became an ambassador of peace, justice and wellness. Selfless giving of her life to those in need, not only that but she became a freedom fighter. A patriot, the pride of her people.

“She left her family and friends and became a sacrifice for the well-being of fellow Africans. May you treasure the many memories you have of our decorated health worker who remained true to the Hippocratic oath she took at the onset of her career. Pledging to exercise a provision for the safety and welfare of all persons,” said Kodwa.

Kodwa said the health fraternity lost a guardian and an exemplar. “The true measure of a man is not how he behaves in the moments of comfort and convenience. But how he stands at the times of controversy and challenge, these are familiar words from Dr Martin Luther King Jr ring to us to the character of Sister Kholeka.

“It is during moments like this where we cannot help but take time to reflect on the national struggle for freedom and what it took to get us to be where we are today. The easiest thing to do in life is to be afraid and through bravery is not the absence of this fear but the willingness to act despite it,” he said.

Kodwa described Sister Tunyiswa-Shabani’s legacy using Terry Pratchett’s words. “‘No one is finally dead until the ripples they cause in the world die away.’ And in this way, she will live in our hearts, in our memories, in the history books, in the vast collection of time we understand as infinite. Go rest in peace Mahlongwane, Ngwane, Masumpa umzamo omhle uwuzamile, ugqatso ulifezile,” said Kodwa speaking at the funeral in Gqeberha.

Nosipho Mshumpela, one of the 20 nurses still alive who were recruited to help in Tanzania, spoke at the funeral and lamented the state of nursing in today’s world. “Something has gone wrong with our nursing in South Africa. It has gone so mighty wrong; I do not know where the mistake happened but the nursing that I have seen. My husband was in ICU for five months. I know what I am talking about, the nursing that I have seen in South Africa recently is not what we were taught. Something needs to be drastically done, there is something wrong,” said Mshumpela.

Nocawe Mafu, the deputy minister of sports, arts, and culture, and Dr. Sibongiseni Dhlomo, the deputy minister of health, were among the dignitaries who attended the funeral.

Sister Tunyiswa-Shabani’s ashes were interred at North End Cemetery, where her older sister, Edith Tunyiswa, is also buried.