Church leader Simon Gqubule dies
Tributes to national order recipient and Citizen of Year Gqubule
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.
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