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Shopsteward Volume 27: Special Bulletin

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Media Centre  |  COSATU Speeches

Tribute to Nokza Khumalo, from her colleagues - delivered by Susan Westcott

25 November 1999


It is a very great honour for me to stand up to pay tribute to sisEunice on behalf of the staff who worked with her at COSATU head office. We prepared this together - everyone had particular things that they remembered sisEunice for that they wanted me to say…….

Nokza was a very big part of our lives at work - she was the first person we would see when we walked into the office, and the last person we would see as we left. It was impossible to walk by without stopping to say hello, start chatting, catch up with the latest news. More than anyone else, sisEunice was the person who would keep us all informed about everything that was going on in the Federation: who had left, who was going to leave, who was new in the organisation, who was sick, if someone had been robbed or hijacked, Eunice knew about it before anybody else. She even knew what went on in affiliates - she would tell us if there had been new office bearers elected, because it was not just COSATU staff who used to pass by and chat. Ex-staff members came by to see sisEunice - Sipho Binda, Maphete, Jay Naidoo…..so her networks were strong. We particular remember her calling some of us on the phone - "Woza! Sizoshwashwata!" or "Utlwile?" - "Did you hear?" Part of the reason why it was so difficult to clear the reception area in COSATU was because of Comrade Nokza, and the fact that she was so easy to talk to and so sociable. She taught me some Zulu, and was always willing to translate when she could see that I couldn't keep up with the discussion. She had names for some of us - "Siboto" for myself and Anna, "Macarena" for Fazila as well as others we can't mention.

Nokza loved to shop - we shared all the monthly brochures from Queens Park, Sales House, Woolworths - even the fliers that arrived from Clicks or Macro, and she would point out the things she was planning to buy - for her daughters, her grandson, sometimes for herself. Payday was always such a busy day (and it is fitting that we remember her on payday today) - we would gather in the reception area and open up our shopping bags to show her our purchases, try things on and model our new clothes or shoes - and she would do the same. She would always notice, with each and every one of us, including the men, if we were wearing something new, and she would comment. Mostly, her comments made you feel good - "You look so smart today - what's the occasion?", or "New shoes - nice!" or "I really like you in those jeans".

She knew our families - our husbands and wives, our children - even our parents and called them by their names. She talked to them when they called the office and always made them feel welcome when they visited. We knew (and still know) her family - Maud, Nomathemba, Tsielie and Xolani, her little grandson. She was the bond or the glue that held us together and made us more than colleagues - into a family. She had also lived her life, and had advice to give us when we had problems, she was always ready to talk and sympathise.

Eunice loved occasions, and was always ready to party even though she was older than most of us. She organised farewells when people left, baby showers when people left on maternity, and we had a ritual of celebrating our birthdays by eating cake. The cake would always go to her at the reception and she would be in charge of cutting and distributing it. If anybody had more than her fair share (as we often wanted to) she'd say "No guys, the 9th floor hasn't had yet" and she'd say that with a second slice in her hand….. She was the one who would collect for funerals - so now that it's her own, we struggled to find someone to do the collection. She was also a central figure in the organisation of Congresses, Conferences, Central Committees, the 10th anniversary celebration and so on. Next Year's Congress will be a strange event without Nokza.

Besides all the things I've mentioned, sisEunice was also unfailingly committed to the organisation, to the ANC and the struggle. Often administrators are left out of the important work of the federation, but sisEunice knew and understood COSATU very well - she did the work of an educator and an organiser and an administrator in one. She would advise workers who phoned in to ask about retrenchments, or which union they should join, sometimes they would turn up at the door and she would always have time to talk to them.

Comrades, I could go on and on, there are so many stories and so many memories. But for now we'd like just to say:

Comrade Nokza - Hamba Kahle!

May you rest in peace!

We will miss you.