Gladstone Xala Tshume was born on 1912, he joined the Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA) in the late 1930s while working for a coal dealer in Grahamstown. He later moved to Port Elizabeth where he was employed in a pharmacy and became local chairman of the party. Turning to trade union work, he led a successful strike of Port Elizabeth dock workers, then took up the organisation of laundry workers and later of textile workers in Port Elizabeth and King William's Town. Until banning orders forced his resignation in 1953, he served as secretary of the African Textile Workers' Union. During African National Congress (ANC) campaigns of the late 1940s and early 1950s he helped to set the tone of militant determination for which the eastern Cape became well-known. A lay preacher in the Bantu Methodist Church, in which his brother Ben was a minister, he was a popular figure whose public speeches were marked by a stutter that caused him to jump with frustration while speaking. He died of a stroke in 1957.

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