Struggle hero General Mountain "Ralph" Tuli Ngqungwana, the right-hand man and confidant of the late ANC stalwart Govan Mbeki in the 1950s and 1960s, has died.
Ngqungwana, who was a former SANDF general, a writer, journalist and a farmer, died at his farm in Rockland near Uitenhage on Friday. He was 66 and had been ill for seven months.
Under the guidance of his hero and mentor, "Oom Gov" Mbeki, Ngqungwana studied politics while working at the ANC and Cosatu branch offices as an organiser at Court Chambers in North End, Port Elizabeth, in the 1950s.
Ngqungwana distributed the Communist newspaper the New Age, which was banned by then justice minister BJ Vorster in 1965.
He joined the ANC military wing Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) in 1961.
When the ANC and other political organisations were banned in 1960, Mbeki and Ngqungwana went underground and distributed pamphlets in the Eastern Cape.
According to his friend and fellow member of the Port Elizabeth Veterans' Association, Sipho Hina, Ngqungwana left the country in 1962 after he was harassed by the security police for his political activities and underwent military training in several African and Arab countries and in the former Soviet Union.
Hina said that Ngqungwana's first battle experience was at Wankie in the former Rhodesia in 1967.
Ngqungwana's unit, the Luthuli Detachment, was MK's foremost battalion and had several encounters with the Rhodesian army before they were arrested after a skirmish with a joint force of Ian Smith's army and South African apartheid forces.
Hina said Ngqungwana and other comrades were sentenced to life imprisonment in 1968 by the Smith regime, but the sentence was nullified after Robert Mugabe took power in Zimbabwe in 1980.
After he was released from prison in Harare, Ngqungwana left for London to study journalism and filmmaking.
He returned from exile in 1991 and continued with his ANC activities until MK was integrated into the SANDF, when he was appointed brigadier-general in 1994.
Ngqungwana retired from the military in 2003.
A memorial service will be held at the Great Centenary Hall in Port Elizabeth on November 29 and his funeral service is scheduled for the same venue on Decem-ber 2.
Ngqungwana is survived by his widow.