Political activist, writer, member of BPC, Vice President of AZAPO and President of SOPA
Tiyani Lybon Mabasa was born in Johannesburg on 17 June 1952. The second of eight children, his single mother brought up Mabasa in Soweto. During his high school years in Soweto, Mabasa became aware of the political situation in the country through reading material published by the South African Student Organisation (SASO).
His own experiences of mistreatment by the Security Police and having to produce a pass wherever he went, further awakened him to the reality of the implication of his skin colour. Throughout his school years, Mabasa participated in the SASO’S activities and got involved in the Student Christian Movement (SCM).
In 1972, Mabasa enrolled for a Bachelor’s degree in English and Linguistics at the University of the North (Turfloop). He became Chairperson and organiser of the SCM at Turfloop, which not only dealt with Christian issues, but tackled political issues as well.
In his final year of study, in 1976, he was refused re-admission to the University due to his political involvement. Mabasa then returned to Soweto and began teaching at Meadowlands High School. It was around this time, that he joined the Black People’s Convention (BCP) led by Steve Biko.
In 1976, Mabasa became one of the teachers arrested during the Soweto Student Uprising. He was detained at John Vorster Square, in Johannesburg, for four months. After his release, he resumed teaching but later resigned.
He then began working for the South African Committee for Higher Education (SACHED) in Johannesburg. When most members of the Black Consciousness Movement (BCM) were banned, following Biko’s death, Mabasa managed to evade banning and continued his political activities.
In Aril 1978, he, together with other comrades conceptualised the formation of the Azanian People’s Organisation (AZAPO). Five days later, Mabasa and all the members of his Committee were arrested under Section Six of the Terrorism Act.
Mabasa served four months in prison and was released in December 1978. Following this, he was banned which meant that he could not leave the Witwatersrand district or enter an educational institution.
He was unemployed for the whole of 1979 because of the banning, which was lifted in 1982, after which he served as Secretary for Culture in AZAPO’s National Council.
AZAPO was officially launched in February 1979. He went on to serve as Vice President and later President. AZAPO dissolved in the 1990s following the resignation of some of its key members, such as Mosiuoa Lekota. With the release of Nelson Mandela, many of Mabasa’s BCM peers discarded their ideology and adopted those of the African National Congress (ANC).
In 1998, Mabasa founded the Socialist Party of Azania (SOPA) based on the BCM values and ideologies as espoused by Steve Biko. In the 1999 elections, Mabasa’s party received only 0.1 percent of the votes and no seats in Parliament.
Mabasa has been very vocal about his views, even travelling to the United States, delivering his message.
He is married to Lydia Oko and they have two children. He continues to write and speak on his views.
• Mabasa L. ‘Socialist Party of Azania,Message from the President’ from SAweb [online] Available at: www.saweb.co.za [Accessed on 22 February 2012]