Nomava Eslinah Shangase was born in Pondoland on 9 May 1931. Shangase qualified as a nurse at King Edward Hospital in Durban. As a nurse, in South Africa, she participated actively in the struggle for the rights of African nurses, having suffered the indignities of racial discrimination herself.
In 1962, the African National Congress (ANC) answered an emergency call for aid from the Government of Tanzania. The country had just obtained its independence and had inherited an inadequate health and hospital services. In answering the call, the ANC decided to approach African nurses in South Africa to assist the young African state. Shangase was amongst those nurses who volunteered to serve in Tanzania.
In 1963,Shangase married Vusi Shangase and when the latter was transferred to work for Radio Moscow in the Soviet Union, she was instructed to join him. Further instructions were given to her, in 1965 to study medicine. She specialised in obstetrics and gynaecology. During her stay in the then Soviet Union, Dr Shangase looked after the interests of women in the ANC and represented them at various forums.
Upon completion of her studies in Moscow, she returned to Dar-es-Salaam and then proceeded to Lusaka where she was attached to the University Training Hospital. After one year, Dr Shangase was posted to Luanda where she served in, Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), until June 1979 when she obtained a fellowship to do a course at Muhimbili Medical Centre with Community Health as her major field of study, which she successfully completed.
During her studies, Dr Shangase found time to participate in the work of the health team in East Africa. She regularly travelled to Morogoro and the Solomon Mahlangu Freedom College (SOMAFCO) on professional visits. Dr Shangase also took an active part in the activities of the African National Congress Women’s Section.
Dr Shangase served two terms of office in the Political Committee in East Africa, until her departure from Dar-es-Salaam to Angola.
Dr. Nomava Eslinah Shangase passed away on 23 October 1981, in a car accident, in the north of the People’s Republic of Angola near the town of Piri. Dr Shangase never earned money as a doctor and died as she lived, in her MK uniform. She left behind a 17-year-old son and her husband, Vusi Shangase, a radio journalist.
On 28 October 2008, the South African Government posthumously awarded the Order of Mendi for Bravery in gold to Dr Nomava Shangase for serving exiled South African guerrillas.