Isaac Bangani Tabata

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Biographical information

Isaac Bangani "I.B." Tabata


Founder and leading theoretician of the Non-European Unity Movement

First name: 
Isaac Bangani
Last name: 
Date of birth: 
Location of birth: 
Near Queenstown, Cape

Isaac Bangani Tabata (known as I.B. Tabata) was born near Queenstown in the Cape in 1909 and received his secondary schooling at Lovedale. After attending Fort Hare for some time he left the university to seek work in Cape Town in 1931. He became employed as a truck driver and joined the racially mixed Lorry Drivers' Union, serving as a member of its executive. He joined the Cape African Voters' Association and educated himself politically by reading widely in Marxist and other radical literature.

The Awakening of a People, and served on the AAC executive. He was one of the founders of the Anti-Coloured Affairs Department group (Anti-C.A.D.) and was active in the Non European Unity Movement (NEUM) from its inception in 1943. In the 1940s he traveled widely in the Cape and the Transkei, publicising the NEUM program and attacking government programs aimed at limiting African livestock. The Xhosa version of his pamphlet. The Rehabilitation Scheme ”” A Fraud,circulated widely at this time.

Contemptuous of both the African National Congress (ANC) and the Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA), Tabata favoured a peasant-based liberation movement and a long-range strategy of political education rather than short-range action campaigns. In June 1952, just as the ANC's Defiance Campaign was beginning, he published a new pamphlet,Boycott as a Weapon of Struggle,putting forth the case for his own approach and that of the NEUM. In 1956 he received banning orders confining him to Cape Town for five years, during which time he wroteEducation for Barbarism,a pamphlet attacking the Bantu Education system.

On the expiration of his ban in 1961, he helped found the African People's Democratic Union of Southern Africa, which was intended to be an individual-membership body affiliated to the AAC and the NEUM, and became its president. In May 1963 he fled South Africa via Swaziland and subsequently took refuge in Zambia. In 1965 and again in 1970 he made speaking tours of the United States.

During his period of exile he has continued to hold the position of president of both the NEUM (now called the Unity Movement of South Africa) and of APDUSA. In addition to the writings cited, he wrote a collection of essays,Imperialist Conspiracy in Africa (1974).

• Carter G.M & Karis T, ( 1977), From Protest to Challenge: A Documentary History of African Politics in South Africa 1882-1964. Vol 4. Hoover Institution Press, Standford University.

Last updated : 15-Sep-2017

This article was produced by South African History Online on 12-Oct-2011

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