Ben Khoapa first became interested in politics while a student at a boarding school in Lesotho. This continued when he later went to study at Adams College near Durban. He subsequently moved to Johannesburg where he began working for the YMCA. In 1968, the YMCA sent him on a trip to the United States where he learned about the political conditions of African Americans. On his return to South Africa, Khoapa became involved with Steve Biko and other youth in the Black Consciousness Movement. He then became director of SPROCAS (Study Project on Christianity in an Apartheid Society).
Khoapa was placed under house arrest in 1973. This may have been as a result of his suspected involvement with the founding of BPC and the outbreak of the Durban strikes in that year. Shortly thereafter he moved back to the United States where he taught for eight years. He returned to South Africa and became the first black Vice Chancellor of Technikon Natal. He also assisted with the merger of three higher education institutions as Pro-Vice Chancellor at the Durban Institute of Technology between 2002 and 2003.