Mr Charles Nqakula worked as waiter and wine steward in a hotel and later as clerk in the Department of Bantu Education. He began working as a journalist for Midland News, a regional weekly newspaper in Cradock in 1966.
He served as political reporter for Imvo Zabantsundu, based in King Williams Town in 1973 and the for the Daily Dispatch in East London from 1976 until he was placed under a banning order in 1981. The authorities revoked the banning order in 1982 because the village he lived in fell into Ciskei, which became independent in 1981. Nqakula was declared a prohibited immigrant and was unable to enter South African territory.
He became a member of the Union of Black Journalists and was elected Vice-President of the Union in 1976 later in 1977, the Union was banned as part of a government crackdown on organisations supporting the Black Consciousness Movement.
Mr Nqakula was elected Vice-President of the Writers' Association of South Africa (WASA) in 1979 and he was subsequently elected Vice-President of the Media Worker's Association of South Africa (MWASA) when WASA was broadened to include others in the media industry.
He was frequently detained either by the South African or Ciskeian authorities. Later towards the end of 1982, he started Veritas News Agency in Zwelitsha and he was elected publicity secretary of the United Democratic Front (UDF) in 1983.
He was arrested in East London for being in South Africa without a visa in 1983. At time Mr Nqakula was already an underground operative for the ANC, specialising in propaganda. He left South Africa and travelled to Lesotho, Tanzania and Zambia in 1984 and later he underwent military training in Angola and joined MK; before he travelled to the Soviet Union and East Germany for further military training.
In 1988 he infiltrated South Africa as one of the commanders of Operation Vula, with a mission to build viable underground and military structures and he served as commander in the Western Cape.
He emerged from the underground when he was granted amnesty by Government in 1991 and served on the interim leadership group of the SACP, as convernor of its National Organising Committee. He was also a member of its political committee and served on the SACP's Secretariat and he was elected Deputy General Secretary of the SACP in 1991 and subsequently as the party's General Secretary following the assassination of Chris Hani in 1993.
He was re-elected to this position at the SACP National Congress in April 1995 and he also elected to the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the ANC in 1994, 1999 and 2004.
He was part of the Parliamentary team led by the speaker of the National Assembly, Dr Feni Ginwala that was sent to Mozambique to assess deluge damage in that country in 2000 caused by flood water and the team proposed a rescued plan.
Mr Nqakula facilitated the peace process in Burundi where he brokered a ceasefire agreement and set up political and military principles underpinning peace and achieving a cessation of hostilities with rebels returning and working on efforts to achieve sustainable peace in 2005.