Transcription of obituary published in the Minutes of Conference by A.A. Kidwell
It has been my privilege to know all the native Primitive Methodist Ministers our Church has had in South Africa. Somngesi, Lepotane, Msinkinya, Mohau, Gqosho, all native Primitive Methodist Ministers—each one made his contribution to the Kingdom of Christ along his own line and scarcely alike in features and in methods. Somngesi was the steady-going, plodding man who seemed able to live on for a life-time in one Town and never make his people tired of him. John Lepotane was the big, robust, ambitious giant, born to be a leader—a great chief. Stephen Gqosho, the subject of this Memoir, was the man for special occasions when he would be dignified, energetic, resourceful or tactful as the meeting needed. He would go amongst his people up and down the Reef and rouse them until they were “on fire” and it was a joy to be in the united gatherings when he would lead them and urge them to dare and do. After that there were days of reaction and rest, and it was best to leave “well” alone.
As a young man Mr. Gqosho came into touch with our Church at Aliwal North and was deeply impressed. He removed to Johannesburg where Primitive Methodism was unknown and joined the Wesleyan Church and had the honour of entering into its Ministry. His second wife was a remarkable character and is spoken of with love and affection by thousands of natives. She was one of the leaders of the Women’s Prayer Union movement, and she was the “General Booth” of that organization in her neighbourhood. For some reason it was deemed wise to separate from the mother-church, and the Rev. Stephen Gqosho appealed to the Rev. George Ayre, of Aliwal North. Help was soon forthcoming and Mr. Gqosho became the leader of our native people along the Reef. Difficult days followed that would have completely wrecked the faith of many. During those days I saw Mr. Gqosho time after time pull through. There were days when he and I held the Quarterly Meeting in a stable, a garage, or a small room in slumland. He always said the Primitive Methodist Church was great and would win—and his faith was richly rewarded. After surmounting the financial difficulties it seemed that at last he could live in a good parsonage and have a fine garden. Things changed and success meant we needed that parsonage for a younger Minister. I spoke to Mr. Gqosho about it and though it was an awful blow to him he bravely said it was in the interest of God’s work and he vacated the parsonage and once more lived in a small house that entailed much sacrifice.
He had his faults like all of us, but he was loveable and one of the most interesting men it has been my privilege to know. For thirteen years he and I toiled on and many times his faith and courage eclipsed mine. He was a man who could laugh and mean it. He was a born actor and could play the part for the occasion. He could “weep with those who weep and rejoice with those that do rejoice.” He did not like Superannuation, and who does? He chafed under it, and found it almost impossible “to be out of it.” He had the joy of leading his native people into the Methodist Church and within two months of that great experience God called him into the Higher Service. Like Moses “he viewed the land from afar.”
His admiration for the English Christians of Old England never waned. In private conversation and on the platform he used to marvel at the faith and. love of people six thousand miles away who would send money and Missionaries to help his people. If ever our Church in England feels it has not received enough gratitude from abroad let it rejoice in Gqosho and thousands like him who never wearied of praising those good people of God in England who helped them though they never saw them. Gqosho always emphasized that thought—“just think, they have never seen us and yet they love us. It is easy to love one you see and who may return some of the love;” but to keep on helping and loving one you never saw seemed the miracle of the ages to him. It helps one to realize how Christ appreciates the love of those who have not seen Him.
Mr. Gqosho knew human nature as few men know it. His summing-up of Europeans and of Natives was a constant revelation. He could not be deceived. If some Europeans, who talk with scorn of the abilities of natives could have heard his views of them they would have walked away feeling that they were indeed pigmies.
Those who differed from Mr. Gqosho could never wish him any ill, for he was such a human man. Somehow he always understood and sympathized and many will love his memory for that.
- 1923 S Africa
PM Minutes 1931/298
W Leary, Directory of Primitive Methodist Ministers and their Circuits, 1990
Census Returns and Births, Marriages & Deaths Registers