James “Jobe” John Hadebe was born on 29 October 1923 in Frankfort in the Orange Free State. The son of a clerk and descendant of the Hlubi chief, Langalibalele, he became a teacher and active member of the African National Congress (ANC) in the Transvaal.

During the ANC boycott of Bantu Education schools in the 1950s, he played a leading part in efforts to organise alternative "cultural clubs" for children. He also acted as Transvaal Provincial Secretary of the ANC, in the Transvaal, in the 1950s.

Arrested on 5 December 1956, he was listed as Defendant Number 64 in the 1956 Treason Trial, and released on bail of £50 on 21 December 1956. 

He later returned to the Drill Hall, where the trial was being conducted, on 10 January 1957. He had to sit through the legal proceedings for an entire year before charges were withdrawn against him.

Hadebe was detained for five months following the State of Emergency in 1960. After this, he left South Africa and went into exile to Bechuanaland (Botswana) enroute to Ghana. He served as a representative of the ANC in Cairo and East Africa, and was also the ANC’s Chief Representative in Dar es Salaam.

In the 4 December 1967 issue of The Standard, in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania reported that Hadebe ‘had resigned from the external mission of the Congress for personal and political reasons”, but that he would retain his ordinary membership of the Congress.

He returned to South Africa from exile in around 1994.

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