Soldier, social research assistant, social worker, location superintendent member of the ANCYL, ANC, POQO and PAC, awarded the Companion of The Order of Luthuli in Silver.
Mfanasekaya Pearce Linda Gqobose was born on 7 August 1917 at Kwa Mdingi, in King Williams Town. He completed his primary schooling at Kwa Mdingi Lower Primary School before going on to Kwa Mdingi High School. He later attended a technical school in King Williams Town.
Gqobose became involved in political struggles when he was a student at Lovedale College in 1935. As a student, he was influenced by the writings of Samuel Krune Mqhayi.
With no other prospects for a viable career, Gqobose joined the South African Military Service in 1941, and served in South Africa, Egypt, Libya and Italy from 1942 to 1946. He left the army with the rank of Corporal in 1946 – a corporal was then the highest rank attainable for black people in the military.
He joined the African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL) in 1946. Gqobose qualified as a social worker, and started working for the National Council for the Blind in Pretoria in 1952. From 1953 until 1956, he was appointed a social research assistant at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in Pretoria.
Thereafter, he was employed as a social worker and as the senior administrative (location superintendent) assistant in Grahamstown and Port Elizabeth. As senior administrative officer, he made it possible for Black people in the Eastern Cape to take up employment and to reside within the urban areas of Port Elizabeth.
When the African National Congress (ANC) launched the Defiance Campaign in 1952, he was in the then Northern Transvaal from where he supported the campaign. He left the ANC to become a founder member of the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) in 1959.
In September 1961, he together with the late John Nyathi Pokela, was tasked to establish Poqo, the forerunner to the Azanian People’s Liberation Army, to launch the first armed attacks on the apartheid regime. The regime detected his political activity and he was discharged from his superintendent’s post in the municipality in 1962.
Gqobose was forced to leave the country on 23 December 1962 for Basutoland (Lesotho). The Presidential Council of the PAC tasked him and Templeton Ntantala to draft a military plan for attacking the regime, in what was to become the ’Poqo attacks’ in the Eastern Cape. The British Protectorate detected these operations and, along with others, he was arrested and sentenced to three years’ imprisonment under the Prevention of Violence Abroad Proclamation of 1963. After his release, he continued to participate in guerrilla attacks on the South African regime until 1970, when the Lesotho Government detained him. It expelled him in 1971, and he left for the then Zaire (Democratic Republic of Congo).
In Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, Gqobose was the acting treasurer general and member of the PAC’s High Command. In 1983, the PAC appointed him head of the Department of Economic Affairs and the fund-raiser of the PAC settlements in Tanzania.
He oversaw production, agriculture, construction and cultural activities in these settlements. He travelled all over the world to raise funds with the head of Social Welfare, Nomvo Booi.
Gqobose formed part of the PAC’s team to negotiate with the regime, which led to the historic first democratic election in 1994.
Before returning to South Africa, Gqobose was appointed official in charge of collection and co-ordination of all the documents of the PAC from all its offices and information depots outside South Africa as well as from those inside the country. These documents form the archives of the PAC and have been kept by the University of Fort Hare since 1994.
Gqobose is retired and lives with his wife, Letitia Nomathemba Gqobose. They have six children; two sons (now deceased) and four daughters. They have 11 grandchildren (one deceased) and five great-grandchildren.
In recognition of his outstanding contribution and for dedicating his life to a free, just and democratic South Africa, by waging the armed struggle against and exposing the oppression of the apartheid system to the international community, President Thabo Mbeki conferred the National Order, Companion of The Order of Luthuli in Silver, on Mfanasekaya Pearce Linda Gqobose in April 2007.