Church leader Si­mon Gqubule dies

Trib­utes to na­tional or­der re­cip­i­ent and Citizen of Year Gqubule

The Herald (South Africa) - - FRONT PAGE - Zandile Mba­bela mba­belaz@times­me­dia.co.za

EM­I­NENT Nel­son Man­dela Bay cler­gy­man and aca­demic the Rev Dr Si­mon Gqubule died yes­ter­day at the age of 88.

Univer­sity of Fort Hare alum­nus Gqubule, who was re­cently awarded a pres­i­den­tial or­der, is said to have fallen ill while re­turn­ing to the city from the univer­sity’s cen­te­nary cel­e­bra­tions last week.

It is un­der­stood that he was ad­mit­ted to hos­pi­tal on Mon­day and un­der­went surgery, but suc­cumbed yes­ter­day af­ter a time in the in­ten­sive care unit.

His death sent shock­waves around the prov­ince, where he has been ac­tively in­volved in the church and in aca­demic cir­cles.

Methodist Church Gra­ham­stown district Bishop Andile Mbete last night said while Gqubule was no young man, his death had come as a sur­prise.

“He was still quite ac­tive and showed no signs of frailty, de­spite his age,” Mbete said.

“We thank God for hav­ing graced us with this great man.

“Not only was he great within the church, he was a great leader in the com­mu­nity.

“Al­most ev­ery prac­tis­ing min­is­ter in the re­gion has gone through his hands.

“His pas­sion for ed­u­ca­tion did not just im­pact on the church but was ex­tended to his school com­mu­nity,” he said.

Mbete said the church was plan­ning a memo­rial ser­vice for Gqubule to be held on Mon­day, with the fu­neral set to take place next week­end.

Gqubule was the 2014 The Her­ald GM Citizen of the Year and, also in 2014, was awarded an hon­orary doc­tor­ate for his life­time of achieve­ment in the­ol­ogy by Fort Hare Univer­sity, which he at­tended in the 1950s.

First news of his death was posted last night on the Fort Hare Alumni Face­book page, six days af­ter he took part in the cen­te­nary cel­e­bra­tions of the fa­mous in­sti­tu­tion on cam­pus last Fri­day when he was in good health.

The Face­book page said it was post­ing the news with a sense of great loss and sad­ness.

Gqubule was one of the re­cip­i­ents of the Na­tional Or­ders Award be­stowed by Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma on Free­dom Day, April 27, for his role as a lead­ing the­olo­gian, aca­demic and anti-apartheid ac­tivist

At that time Gqubule said: “I feel happy about this [the award]. It hap­pened while I am still alive and not when I am no longer here.”

His pas­sion for ed­u­ca­tion and giv­ing poorer pupils the same op­por­tu­ni­ties as their more af­flu­ent for­mer Model-C coun­ter­parts earned him the hon­our of be­ing se­lected as the Her­ald GM Citizen of the Year two years ago.

He lived in Gqubule Street, in KwaNobuhle, Uiten­hage. The street was named af­ter his fam­ily.

In par­tic­u­lar, hon­ours were be­stowed on Gqubule for found­ing the Ilitha Lem­fundo Ed­u­ca­tional En­hance­ment Cen­tre in 2007 at Uiten­hage’s Sisonke Se­condary School.

At the time of the na­tional or­der be­ing be­stowed, he said he had never re­ally con­sid­ered ed­u­ca­tion as a ca­reer while he was a pupil at Fort Beau­fort’s Heald­town In­sti­tu­tion from 1943.

An alum­nus of Fort Hare and Rhodes uni­ver­si­ties – he was the first black per­son to get a doc­tor­ate from Rhodes, in 1978 – the or­dained min­is­ter said that ed­u­ca­tion had al­ways run in his blood.

But, af­ter re­tire­ment, he fully ded­i­cated his time to im­prov­ing ed­u­ca­tional wel­fare.

Pic­ture: BRIAN WIT­BOOI

PROUD MO­MENT: The Her­ald GM Citizen of the Year the Rev Dr Si­mon Gqubule with his proud daugh­ters, Phumla, left, and Thandi at the awards func­tion

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