Why Name Far East Rand Hospital after Ruth First?

Far East Rand Hospital

Premier David Makhura is officially renaming the Zola-Jabulani Hospital tomorrow, the first of three proposed new names for hospitals in Gauteng, but the most puzzling one is the plan to name the Far East Rand Hospital after Ruth First.Jack Bloom DA Constituency Head - Johannesburg East

According to a written reply by Gauteng Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu to my questions in the Gauteng Legislature, the Far East Rand Hospital Board wrote a letter to the MEC in 2008 proposing the name change and “several meetings were held with the members of the hospital board, community of Springs, Kwa-Thema, Tsakane and Daveyton.

Furthermore, staff members (including labour unions), members of the religious forum were consulted.”

Names Submitted for Consideration

The following five names were submitted to the Office of the MEC for consideration:

  • Flamma Mzamane – a professional nurse;
  • Violet Phoswayo – a social worker;
  • Margaret Gazo – a political activist;
  • Ruth First – a political activist; and
  • Dr Lancelat Gama – medical doctor.

Mahlangu says that the hospital board “felt that the name Far East Rand explains the geographic location of the hospital and does not reflect the history of the area.”

Ruth First

Ruth First was an anti-apartheid scholar and member of the SA Communist Party together with her husband Joe Slovo. She was born in Johannesburg and has no readily apparent link to the Far East Rand area.

My concern is that in virtually every instance (Steve Biko Hospital is an honourable exception) the Gauteng Provincial Government renames a hospital after an ANC-linked activist, often with little real consultation.

The FAR Hospital is in the ward of DA Councillor Dean Stone who was not consulted at all with regard to the renaming, unlike ANC councillors who were involved in the Zola-Jabulani and New Natalspruit Hospital name changes.

Public Participation

Nobel Prize winning author Nadine Gordimer is the most famous Springs-born personality, and should have been considered, especially as her name could be used to raise donor funds internationally for the hospital.

The public participation process in renaming the Far East Rand hospital was very selective and inadequate. My view is that a further process should be embarked on that includes names like Nadine Gordimer with a strong local connection.

There is a strong case for hospitals to have a geographical name, but there must be genuine public consultation if they are to be renamed.


Media enquiries:

Jack Bloom MPL

DA Constituency Head – Johannesburg East

082 333 4222

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