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Passing on of the oldest freedom fighter in South Africa

The spiritual transition of Cde Gqobose to his Creator and to the ancestors is not to be mourned, but to be celebrated with gratitude to God who lent Gqobs to this family and to South Africa and indeed, to humanity as whole

Comrade Mfanasekhaya Percy Gqobose is not fallen. He is in the class of Makana, Bambatha and Sobukwe. As a spirit now, he is there to awaken us from our political slumber and inspire us to the spirit of 6th April 1959 where he was when the spark of the Azanian revolution was lit.

Cde Gqobose was no ordinary man. He had qualities of an extra-ordinary person. He was brave, wise, humble and a true revolutionary. He had great perseverance in struggle for the genuine liberation of our country. He never lost sight of the fact that colonialists took our land from us through terrorist militarism. He never deviated from the fact that the primary contradiction of our liberation struggle was over our usurped land – umhlaba.

He never conveniently closed his mind to the fact that land is the trophy over which our kings and all patriots of this country fought. Food, water, decent homes, clothes, cattle, gold, platinum, diamonds, and money come from land. Land provides means for education and employment. Churches themselves are built on the land, not in the sky. A nation without land is no nation. A king without land is no king. Land is the basic national asset of a people.

Cde Gqobose has departed from this planet in peace knowing that he never betrayed the land question for the politics of the stomach that is destroying the African people in this country today.

I met ‘Gqobs’ as he was affectionately called for the first time in Maseru, Lesotho in March 1963. It was at night time! He was with comrades like TM Ntantala, P.K. Leballo, Gason Ndlovu and Elliot Mfaxa. They had formed the first military wing of a liberation movement in this country since Bambatha in 1905. I was then chairman of an underground branch at Dobsonville as well as managing editor of a publication known as OUR AFRICA. We were many that night. We came from various underground PAC cells in this country.

Gqobs was firm on what the African people had to do to liberate themselves. He and his colleagues gave very clear instructions. POQO forces subsequently responded. The apartheid colonialist regime was shaken as never before. Heads were rolling. The Pan Africanist Congress of Azania (PAC) became the pace-setter in the Azanian revolution. It connected with Pan Africanist giants such as Kwame Nkrumah, Ahmed Sekou Toure, Ahmed Ben Bella, Modibo Keita, Patrice Lumumba and many others.

In exile I was in contact with Mfanasekhaya. I was in Zambia. He was in Tanzania.

He was as dedicated and committed as ever to the true nature of the African liberation struggle of this country. Back home he had all the energy and revolutionary reliability. All the PAC documents that are housed at Fort Hare University today are the work of Cde Gqobose.

I want to salute the Gqobose family, his children, many of whom I know, including Ndileka whom I met in America when I was PAC representative at the United Nations. To them I say the spiritual transition of Cde Gqobose to his Creator and to our ancestors is not to be mourned, but to be celebrated with gratitude to God who lent Gqobs to this family and to this nation and indeed, to humanity as whole.

Gqobs was an international figure. He was a fountain of inspiration and dedication to the true national aspirations of the African people who today are 80 percent of the population of this country, but are still victims of landlessness, poverty, disease, ignorance, shortest life expectancy and highest child mortality and the Native Land Act 1913 which granted them 13 percent of their country is entrenched in Section 25 (7) of the ‘New South Africa’ Constitution.

Cde Gqobose was 96 years old when he transited, having been born in 1917. He is the oldest freedom fighter in South Africa. The other day I was talking with G.M. Kolisang, the first Secretary-General of the Basutoland Congress Party (BCP). He served under that Pan Africanist stalwart, Ntsu Mokhehle. Mokhehle later became Prime Minister of Lesotho. He was a great friend of Cde Gqobose. Kolisang told me that when he was doing Standard Six, Gqobs was already a teacher in 1939. He said he learned much from him. Kolisang is a lawyer by profession.

As a young man Gqobs enrolled as a soldier in the Second World War (1939-1945). He fought the Nazis forces of Adolf Hitler.

In 1959 there arose a serious contradiction in the politics of South Africa. Certain leaders started saying that the country of their forefathers belonged equally and legitimately to both the colonised African indigenous owners and the colonialists who had seized the African country at gun point and dispossessed the African people.

Gqobs disagreed. He became not only one of the founders of the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania, but also a founder of its military wing POQO later renamed the Azanian Peoples’ Liberation Army. This name came after that brilliant military prowess of General Gerald ‘Kibwe’ Kondlo and his comrades such as Enoch Zulu and Zeblon ‘Ojuku’ Mokoen; at the famous Battle of Villaperi where APLA taught colonialists a lesson, that their time was up.

In 1961 Cde Gqobose left his well - paid job as a social worker. He had studied and completed his B.A. degree in Sociology after the end of the War. He left his beloved wife and children to be among PAC leaders in exile. Gqobs is an admirable example of revolutionary dedication, commitment, reliability and patriotism. He was prepared at all times to die and pay the supreme sacrifice for the liberation of his fatherland – the land where our Kings fell before the bullets of the invaders at Sandile’s Kop, Amalinde, Keiskamahoek, iSandlwana, Thaba Bosiu and Libu Mountain in Sikukuniland. I salute the Gqobose family that stood by the side of this warrior and never forsook this gallant son of Africa.

Cde Gqobose and his colleagues have not received the honour they deserve. His role and that of his comrades like Sobukwe, Ngendane,Leballo, Madzunya, Siwisa, Mothopeng Masemola and many others, has been denied them by the ‘miracle’ ‘rainbow nation.’

But Gqobose’s history and that of his colleagues is written with blood. It cannot be erased with lies written with ink. The day is coming when true sons and daughters of Africa shall receive their long overdue honour for the unmatchable sacrifices they made for the unfinished liberation of this country.

As that great martyr of Africa put on 7th January 1961, when imperialists and their agents were assassinating him: ‘History will one day have its say. It will not be the history taught in...Washington, Paris, or Brussels, but the history taught in the countries that have rid themselves of colonialism and its puppets. Africa will write its own history. It will be a history full of glory and dignity.’

Long live the spirit of Mfanasekhaya Percy Gqobose! Long live the Azanian Revolution! Izwe Lethu! Umhlaba!

* Motsoko Pheko is former PAC president and former member of parliament in South Africa