Portia Nkuna was born in Shabalala Trust, Hazyview in Mpumalanga. She began her education in lower primary at Mpunzana Primary School and subsequently advanced to higher primary at Ifalethu Primary School. She then went to Sibukosetfu Secondary School, where she completed her high school.
Nkuna believes that education is a valuable tool for changing society and an even powerful tool for trade unionists. She obtained her first tertiary qualification, a Diploma in Crime Justice and Forensic Science from the University of Johannesburg. She then went on to complete an Advanced Diploma in Public Administration at the University of Western Cape (UWC).
She went on to complete a Bachelor of Technology (B.Tech) Degree in Public Management at Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) and a B.Tech Degree in Human Resource Management at Central University of Technology in Bloemfontein.
All of Nkuna’s working career has been in the local government sector. Collectively, Nkuna has 27 years experience in this sector. She began her local government journey as a Promotional Representative Councillor in Hazyview from 1995 to 2000, where she also served as an Executive Committee member. Thereafter, she was employed by the City of Mbombela, the Capital City of Mpumalanga Province.
Despite her academic accolades, Nkuna continued to equip herself by studying further. She recently completed a Post Graduate Diploma in Labour Law at the Stellenbosch University and is currently in the process of completing her Masters Degree in Public Administration.
Nkuna also possesses numerous certificates from various institutions such as an Advance Diploma in Labour Law, as well as Diplomas in Local Government and Executive Leadership; Project Management, and Integrated Development and Management from UNISA and WITS University respectively.
Nkuna is an individual with strong political and social principles. She began her political activism in the underground structures for the liberation struggle, such as United Democratic Front (UDF), Young Christian Students (YCS), the South African Youth Congress, which varied depending on location and was led by the late former stalwart Peter Mokaba, in 1985.
Her role in the liberation movement was to render the apartheid regime ungovernable in order to fight for democracy and the freedom of people of colour and the working class in general. She has been an active member of the ANC Youth League, Women’s League, and the ANC. She is currently serving as Ehlanzeni District Ward 16 ANC branch Chairperson.
Nkuna joined SAMWU in 2001 and was later elected a Shopsteward. Her contributions in the struggle to better the conditions of service for workers were recognised by workers when they elected her to serve as a Local Secretary and later the Local Chairperson. She continued to serve her constituency and members of the Union in the province, which later deployed her as a delegate to the Central Executive Committee meetings of SAMWU.
Thereafter, Nkuna was elected to serve workers as Deputy Regional Secretary until her election as the Mpumalanga Provincial Treasurer, a position she held from 2012 to 2020. At the Union’s 12th National Congress, Nkuna was elected SAMWU 2nd Deputy President, a position she holds to this day. According to Nkuna, her rise through the structures of the Union has been as a result of her never neglecting her constituency, continuously and selflessly championing the interests of municipal workers without fail.
As the 2nd Deputy President of SAMWU, Nkuna is responsible for amongst other things, the Union’s social benefits. She argues that the social benefits that have been created by workers, such as SAMWUMED and SAMWU SACCO should be protected and prioritised.
According to Nkuna, every member of SAMWU should also be a member of SAMWUMED and SAMWU SACCO. By joining Union initiated schemes, workers will be active contributors to the financial sustainability of the schemes which were created to serve them.
Nkuna is very optimistic about the future of SAMWU and the value that it brings to the lives of all workers in the sectors which the Union organises in. She further believes that the Union has a potential to increase its membership to at least 250 000 in the next five years. This however she says can only be done though the improvement of service to Union members.
According to Nkuna, the ability of the Union to increase its membership base can be strengthened by ensuring that the Union remains a worker controlled organisation, a Union that listens to its members and having leaders who are always available to go the extra mile in attending to the needs of its members and workers in general.
Nkuna adds that the Union should never loose its key purpose of existence, being protecting workers and their interests in and out of the workplace. For Nkuna, safeguarding of workers’ interests is a priority for the Union and the leadership collective. This should be done in line with this year’s theme being the year of the member.