David Maphgumzana Sibeko was born on 26 August 1938 in Sophiatown, Johannesburg. He received his schooling at the St Cyprian's Anglican School in Sophiatown, and the Johannesburg Bantu High School (sometimes called Western High, and after 1963 Madibane High School). After leaving school he went to work for Drum, initially as switchboard operator, but later as a reporter. In 1958 he became an insurance agent.
Sibeko joined the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) during the state of emergency after the banning of the organization in 1960. He soon became chairperson of the PAC in the Vaal River area and made a substantial contribution to the recruitment of members and the revival of PAC branches in Sharpeville, Vanderbijlpark, Sasolburg and Carletonville. In 1960 Sibeko returned to Drum as columnist, also reporting for Post (Golden City Post). In 1963 he was arrested in terms of the Sabotage Act and held in detention for seven months. After a two-week trial he was acquitted and released. Sibeko then left South Africa and joined the PAC in exile in Tanzania.
Sibeko was subsequently sent to the People's Republic of China on a course in revolutionary journalism. After six months (some sources mention three months) he returned and became the PAC's chief representative in East Africa. In addition he was the organization's contact person with the Freedom Committee of the Organization of African Unity. In 1968 Sibeko was appointed head of the PAC's mission to Europe and the Americas. He was responsible for the establishment of new PAC offices in various countries. In 1974 Sibeko became the PAC's permanent observer at the United Nations. In this capacity he was the first representative of a South African anti-apartheid movement to address the Security Council of the United Nations. During his stay in the United States of America he tirelessly attended the meetings of anti-apartheid groups and in speech after speech called for support for the South African blacks' struggle against oppression.
In 1975 Sibeko became a member of the PAC's central committee and was appointed director of foreign affairs. He always acted in this capacity at international meetings. On 12 September 1978, exactly a year after the death of the Black Consciousness leader Steve Biko, Sibeko took part in a ceremony held by the United Nations Special Committee against Apartheid to pay homage to Biko. Sibeko completely identified with Biko's opinions. In his homage to Biko he said that it was essential to free the black man from his inferiority complex. From then on he believed that no measure of sacrifice would be too great in the liberation struggle of the 'people of Azania', and that eventually they would triumph in the political struggle. The PAC's use force was defended thus by him: "To kill for our freedom is correct ... because reactionary violence must be answered with revolutionary violence."
Sibeko was closely involved with the removal of P.K. Leballo from the PAC leadership in 1979. He was a member of the triumvirate, known as the President's Council, that shared the chairpersonship of the organization after the palace revolution. Mutual distrust within the PAC leadership was, however, the order of the day and Sibeko fell victim to this distrust when he was ambushed and shot dead by assassins from his own group.
On the evening of 10 June 1979 three young men knocked on a Dar es Salaam flat owned by a Dr Raditapole from Lesotho where Sibeko was with Vusi Make, another senior and influential PAC leader in international diplomatic circles. When he opened the door, three young men stormed into the flat and insisted that the two accompany them to a PAC military camp in Tunya, some kilometres south of the country. When they refused the young men opened fire and then fled the scene. Make miraculously survived the hail of bullets and would later become the chief witness in the murder trial. Three suspects, young Apla cadres believed to have belonged to the Potlako Leballo faction were found guilty of murder and handed life sentences in a Tanzanian court.
He was buried in Gaborone, Botswana. His remains were later exhumed and reburied in Evaton, Gauteng. He is survived by his wife Elizabeth and their four children.
Verwey, E.J. (ed)(1995). New Dictionary of South African Biography, v.1 , Pretoria: HSRC|T. Lodge (1983) , Black politics in South Africa since 1945 . Johannesburg|The Rand Daily Mail, 13 & 22, June, 2 July 1979|The Star, 13 June 1979.