DENOSA in Thembeka Gwagwa region (Joe Gqabi and parts of Chris Hani districts) in the Eastern Cape held its Regional Shop Steward Council (RSSC) at Frontier Hospital in Komani (formely Queenstown), where the renaming of the region as Thembeka Gwagwa was officially launched on 12 November.
Thembeka Gwagwa is former General Secretary of DENOSA from 1997 to 2014. She is the current Vice-President of International Council of Nurses (ICN).
She was present at the RSSC, accompanied by former DENOSA President, Dorothy Matebeni, Acting General Secretary, Cassim Lekhoathi, Provincial Deputy Chairperson, Zodwa Gqirana, Provincial Secretary, Khaya Sodidi, and Provincial Treasurer, Ozza Landa Ncumolwethu.
In explaining the rationale behind renaming the region after Thembeka Gwagwa, Olwethu Matyila, who is former Region B regional secretary and current Provincial Treasurer, said the region saw it fit to honour her while she is still alive as opposed to giving her the honour after she has died. She said the history of Thembeka and her activism in the organisation was most convincing.
"We had also wished that she set her foot in this region in her lifetime. We are honoured that she has graced this event with her presence," said Matyila.
Former President of DENOSA, Dorothy Matebeni, commended the region for honouring Thembeka. She said Thembeka was among the first activists to agitate for the collapsing of the South African Nursing Association (SANA) in favour of a broadly representative organisation for all nurses in South Africa.
Matebeni recalled the years of hardship in which they, as activists, would have to crisscross the country convincing former homelands nursing associations in favour of a single and broadly representative nursing organisation for all nurses.
"It was a tough period, and we were sleeping on the road. Imagine arriving at the offices of a former homeland nursing association like Transkei Nursing Association, or Bophuthatswana Nursing, or Venda Nursing Association and telling the elected president and secretary of such associations that they must disband and relinquish all their resources to the organisation with similar intentions as them," recalled Matebeni.
Matebeni said if there was a person at DENOSA who had worked tirelessly in ensuring that DENOSA was formed it is Thembeka Gwagwa, adding that it was befitting that she was honoured while still alive.
She urged the region and the organisation to look after the name DENOSA, because the name was chosen among many names that were suggested at the conference of nurses planning for the future, which eventually voted in favour of the name DENOSA.
She called on the region to support her and her international work so that the voice of South African and African nurses could find expression at the international stage like ICN.
Provincial Secretary, Khaya Sodidi, urged the region to protect the name and not do anything that will tarnish the name, because people will always look up to her.
In thanking the region for bestowing her with the honour, she complemented the region for its bravery in renaming their region after her instead of waiting for her to die.
"On behalf of the entire Gwagwa family, we thank you for this gesture. Most of my family members wished they were here," she started.
"Although I acknowledge the honour, I do not know what your expectations of me are."
She said she valued the kind of leadership that takes decisions and learn from such instead of a leadership that does not take a decision, because it is from such decisions that great lessons are learned.
She urged the region commit to the sustainability of DENOSA so that the slogan "long live DENOSA" lives up to its true meaning as a clarion call and not just a slogan.
"Whether you regard the slogan 'long live DENOSA long live's as a slogan or a clarion call will determine how you manage DENOSA."
She called on shop stewards to take great interest in the organization's development, including taking a keen interest in developing its policies which will guide how it is managed.