Former Ciskei military ruler.
Lives of Courage
Joshua Oupa Gqozo was born in Kroonstad on 10 March 1952. He is the son of Anna and Fikile Joel Gqozo. His father was a skilled labourer and religious minister. At his young age Gqozo was sent away by his parents to stay with his relative living in Witgatboom in Northern Transvaal. When he arrived there he enrolled for his primary education at Seabe Community School until he completed his standard five. After completing his standard five Gqozo returned to Kroonstad where he attended the Phomolong Junior and Bodibeng Senior High School. In 1972 he dropped out of school and went to work as a warder at Kroonstad prison. He only matriculated through correspondence in 1975.
While still at the Kroonstad prison he was sent to study at the Baviaanspoort Training College. Upon his completion at the Baviaanspoort College he worked for the Prisons Department in Klerksdorp.and later joined the South African Defence Force. He worked as a soldier and chief clerk of the SADF’s 21 Battalion based in Lenasia next to Johannesburg. In 1981 Gqozo relinquished his position at the SADF and joined the Ciskei Defence Force.
In January 1990 Gqozo was honoured with the Order of Good Hope when he completed his term of duty. In March 1990 Gqozo staged a coup in Ciskei in the absence of the Ciskei Chief Minister Lennox Sebe. Sebe was on state visit to Hong Kong. Kwame Sebe, a son to the Chief Minister, who had also planned to stage a coup, was kept in military custody together with other government officials. After this foiled coup four Ciskei cabinet ministers were confined to their homes.
On 4 March 1990 Brigadier Gqozo addressed two rallies, one in Bisho and the other one at Mdantsane near East London. Subsequently mayhem erupted in Ciskei. Many shops and offices connected to the Ciskei government and Sebe’s family were damaged. The new government under Gqozo and executive committee comprised of four members announced the suspension of the constitution and the abolition of the office of the presidency. They further announced assumption of the direct control of the country with council of the state, which would take over all executive and legislative powers in Ciskei.
The executive committee led by Gqozo, accused Sebe’s government of wide spread violence and detentions which undermined the rule of Law. It was further accused of corruption and abuse of state funds. As a result of the persistent violence Gqozo approached South Africa security forces for assistance. In Novemeber 1990 Gqozo claimed that he had aborted a coup allegedly planned by Colonel Guzana and former military council member Major Peter Howsa. In February 1991 the head of Ciskei’s Defence Force, Brigadier Aaron Jamangile was arrested after he was accused of leading another abortive coup.
In mid 1991 Gqozo formed African Democratic Movement to counter the influence of the ANC in the region. In December 1991 Gqozo formed part of the delegates at the Convention for a Democratic South Africa (CODESA) to discuss South Africa new political dispensation. In March 1992 Gqozo accused the African National Congress (ANC) of planning to remove him from power in Ciskei. In August 1992 he prevented ANC marchers from King Williams Town to enter Ciskei. However the march of about 80 000 people led bySouth African Communist Party General Secretary Chris Hani, Cyril Ramaphosa, and Harry Gwala took place on 7 September 1992. Gqozo in trying to avert conflict between the marchers and security officers he allowed the marchers to enter Bisho stadium. In spite of this effort this march claimed 20 lives when Ciskei forces opened fire on marchers. And over 200 people were wounded in this incident.
Since the advent of democracy Gqozo’s life turned into a misery. In 1996 before he could appear before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission for Bisho massacre he was admitted to a psychiatric after suffering from depression. In 1998 he was convicted and fined 10 000 for illicit diamond trafficking. In 2001 he sustained dangerous injuries to his chest, head and neck while was trying to give protection to traditional healer in Middeldrift. He was hospitalised again after he burnt his hands and face. This time he had mistakenly refilled a heater with petrol instead of paraffin.
He is currently living in dilapidated house in his farm, which he held onto it despite Judge Willem Heath probe into Ciskei government land deals.
Gqozo is married to Corinthian Nomziwakhe and they have four children.