People ’ s nurse turns 100 in style
‘ People ’ s nurse ’ celebrates 100 in style
AS SELLOANE Ethel Leisa danced to the sound of trumpets welcoming her into the Albertina Sisulu Centre in Soweto, spectators erupted in excitement as they knew it was no ordinary sight.
At age 100, she walked into her centenary birthday party in Orlando West, Soweto, by herself, at the weekend.
Many know her for her defiant and daredevil personality, especially during apartheid when she turned her house into a hiding place for political activists like Lillian Ngoyi, who were evading security police.
“By the way, I ’ m asthmatic. I was a professional nurse and reading helped me to deal with my condition,” she says.
Ma-Leisa, as she is called, is a founding member of the African Self-Help Association (Asha), a non-governmental entity that has set up about 40 pre-schools around Soweto since the 1930s.
She believes education is a tool that can make a difference in society, as much as it made her a “people ’ s nurse ”.
“Today ’ s youth must never be idle. “Many young people don ’ t read newspapers anymore. They need to read and write about what will change their lives for the better,”
‘ Ma-Leisa is the epitome of love ’
she says. “I still read every day.” She attributed her long life to “something only God knows ”, and reiterated it had “nothing to do with dieting and some of the things people speculate about ”.
Among those present at her party were musicians Tsepo Tshola, Moss Tau and actress and former
Idols judge Mara Louw.
Tshola, who is Ma-Leisa ’ s nephew, said there were many life lessons he received having grown up around her.
He still recalls when, as a youngster, Ma-Leisa said to him: “Keep taking care of yourself my son. The world is rough. Don ’ t go against it; live accordingly.”
Tau, a fellow All Rounders band mate with musician Babsy Mlangeni, said he came to know MaLeisa through his mother, who was a nurse under MaLeisa ’ s mentorship.
“They were nurses together and well-known midwives who helped deliver a number of babies in Soweto,” he says.
“Ma-Leisa is the epitome of love. She ’ s one of those genuine nurses who never disrespected patients.”
Louw described her as “straight talker ”, reining in delinquent youths in Mzimhlophe where she was Ma-Leisa ’ s neighbour.
“To this day she still calls me Teboho, the name people in Mzimhlophe still use to refer to me,” Louw said.
“Ma-Leisa is not scared to confront you when she sees you getting out of hand, especially youngsters.
“She is like our Mandela. Her legacy in Soweto is very rich,” Louw said.
She had three children, eight grandchildren and 10 great-grand children.