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Media Centre  |  COSATU Speeches

Speech at the Memorial Service for Eunice Khumalo, by Tony Ehrenreich

25 November 1999

We are gathered here today to pay tribute to our comrade, Eunice Khumalo.

As friends we are deeply saddened by her untimely death. As comrades we are feeling her absence in the movement and will miss her contribution for a long time to come. Comrade Eunice was one of the COSATU veterans, having served in the organisation since its early days. She worked with comrades like Jay Naidoo and Sydney Mufamadi in the 80's when apartheid repression was at its most brutal. And she worked with Sam Shilowa and Zwelinzima Vavi throughout the 90's when the role of trade unions was unclear, the terrain of struggle had shifted and we were faced with a whole set of new and difficult challenges.

She often used to tell us stories about "the old days" or amusing anecdotes starting with "in Jay's time". She played a crucial role in strengthening the organisation during the past few years. She had a super-efficient manner about her, assisting with the organisation of meetings and congresses, always having a sharp eye for detail.

Most COSATU staff will remember Noksa as one of the foundation stones of the Federation. She was the first person new members met, she was the one to welcome us and introduce us to the rest of the staff. She played an important role in orientating new comrades into the organisation.

She was also well known by many workers. She was the face of the Federation, the first person workers would see when they came to COSATU with problems. She always made time for these workers, referring them to the correct people or following up with their unions. She was a true working class activist. Those who knew and loved comrade Eunice did not only come from the Federation however. She was respected by comrades from the Alliance, the civic movement, parliamentarians and church people.

Her warm and outgoing nature meant that people were automatically attracted to her and many confided in her and sought her advice. She was often seen as the contact person for COSATU, on both a personal and political level, and people would generally phone sis' Eunice with news of weddings, deaths, union elections, national politics and so on.

Eunice was not only a working class activist in COSATU. She was also a loyal and active member of the ANC. She used to engage in heated discussions about the role and future of the organisation with COSATU comrades. She fundraised for her branch during the national elections and actively campaigned for the decisive victory we won on June 2.

She will be remembered in COSATU as a friend, a comrade, an organiser, a working class activist, a support structure, a historian, an ANC activist, a hero in her own right. On an organisational level, the Federation has already felt her absence.

On a personal level, we will all miss her deeply for a long time to come. We would like to send our heart-felt sympathies to her three children and her entire family. Your loss is our loss, and we mourn with you on this very sad day. We wish you strength and love during this difficult time.

Hamba kahle sis' Eunice!