Born in 1942, Nqakula first worked as a wine steward and later became a clerk in the Department of Bantu Education
In 1966 he became a journalist, eventually becoming a political reporter for Imvo Zabantsundu, based in King Williams Town, in the early ’70s.
Nqakula then worked in East London, for the Daily Dispatch until he was “banned” by the government in 1981.
Nqakula actually lived in Ciskei, an “independent” territory, so the government was forced to lift the “banning” order, but then prevented him from re-entering South Africa.
Nqakula had been elected vice-president of the Union of Black Journalists in 1976, but the organisation was banned the following year. The government alleged it was aligned to the Maoist leaning, Black Conciousness Movement of Azania.
Nqakula was elected vice-president of the Writers Association of South Africa in 1979 and maintained the position when the organisation broadened to become the Media Workers Association of South Africa.
In 1983, he was elected publicity secretary of the United Democratic Front.
Nqakula was regularly detained by South African and Ciskeian authorities, so in 1984 he skipped the country.
Nqakula travelled to Lesotho, Tanzania and Zambia, then underwent military training, with the ANC’s armed wing, “Umkhonto We Sizwe” in Angola. Later he travelled to the Soviet Union and East Germany for further military training.
In 1988, Nqakula infiltrated back into South Africa as a commander of “Operation Vula“. He was charged with building up underground military structures in the Western Cape region.
After the ANC and SACP were legalised in 1990, Nqakula served on the interim leadership group of the SACP, as convenor of its national organising committee, on its political committee and as a member of the party’s secretariat.
He became General Secretary of the SACP in 1991 after the assassination of Chris Hani.
In 1994, Nqakula was elected to the National Executive Committee of the ANC and was re-elected to the leadership of the SACP in 1995.
He served as Parliamentary Counsellor to President Mbeki until 2001 and was Deputy Minister or Home Affairs until gaining his present position
In his spare time Nqakula composes choral music and writes poetry.