Born in Natal in 1931, he studied at Adams College and Ohlange Institute, where he matriculated in 1950. After working some time in a Durban textile plant, where he became a trade union spokesman, he entered the University of Natal, where as president of the non-European Students' Representative Council he pressed for a break between black students and the white-led National Union of South African Students. He completed a BA degree in 1956 and later began law studies. From 1954 until 1957, when his arrest for treason precluded his participation in Natal affairs, he served as provincial secretary for the Youth League. He was discharged from the Treason Trial late in1957.
In April 1959 he was chosen treasurer-general of the PAC. He served a brief jail sentence following the PAC's anti-pass campaign in 1960, and in March 1961 he was sentenced to a two-year term under the Suppression of Communism Act. He fled to Swaziland and became part of the PAC's external mission, attending meetings of the Organisation of African Unity and speaking before the Special Political Committee of the United Nations. Shortly after entering the University of Zambia in 1968, he was deported from Zambia along with other PAC leaders.