From premier to scrub nurse

2013-02-24 10:00

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Beatrice Marshoff still works for the ANC behind the scenes.

Her navy-blue nurse’s uniform is a far cry from the glamorous outfits she wore as premier of the Free State.

After “taking a break” from her province’s “hectic politics”, Beatrice Marshoff has gone back to being a scrub nurse.

“Some of my colleagues and patients still call me Madame Premier,” she said. One of the doctors who recognised her in the corridors of the private Bloemfontein Mediclinic this week was so surprised that he asked: “What are you doing here?”

It’s Marshoff’s first week back in a Bloemfontein hospital theatre. Instead of delivering speeches, she now helps deliver babies by Caesarian section.

She worked at the same hospital 18 years ago. “I was a nurse at the same hospital – then called Hydromed Hospital – when I resigned in 1993 to join the ANC’s election campaign full-time,” she said.

In 1994 she became a member of parliament and in 2001 she was sent to the Free State as social development MEC.

In 2004, former president Thabo Mbeki appointed a shocked Marshoff to the job of premier over Ace Magashule, the choice of provincial party members.

She freely admits her term was plagued by massive infighting and factionalism.

Her secret wedding that year to the much younger Sphiwe Mboyane, a former City Press political journalist, also made headlines but the marriage lasted just four years.

After the 2009 elections, when she was redeployed to Parliament, she decided to quit. “A day before I was supposed to be sworn in, I realised that travelling between Bloemfontein and Cape Town was going to be hectic. I was going through an emotional dip in my life and knew I needed some time to heal,” she said.

“I then went to see President Jacob Zuma and asked for his blessing to take a break from politics.”

But after 18 months at home, she could no longer stand the boredom.

“I had to do something and decided to go back to nursing. But I did not want to add to the pressure of going back, after more than 15 years out of the profession, by working in the province,” she said.

So she phoned the Morningside Mediclinic in Johannesburg’s northern suburbs and asked if they were in need of a scrub nurse.

She started with a demanding 30-hour shift and enjoyed it enormously.

“After my first two weeks I had to deal with an emergency Caesarean. Once I’d done that I knew I was ready and all my initial reservations were gone.”

But after three years of travelling to Johannesburg for the week and home to Bloemfontein on weekends, she decided to go home for good.

“Although my work environment was good, I started to miss my grandchildren.”

She applied for a transfer to Bloemfontein and started last week.

Politics, however, is never far away – she is working hard behind the scenes at her ANC branch.

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