Jainub Jane Gool – Tabata was born in Cape Town on 19 March 1902 to Yusuf and Wageda Gool, the sixth of nine children. Her father, an immigrant from India, settled in South Africa after spending some time in Mauritius. He was a successful merchant, who had strong sympathies for the anti-imperialist struggle in India. He also took Mahatma Ghandi into his home for a while after one of his terms of imprisonment, when Jane was still a young child.
Her eldest brother A.H. Gool studied in England and was the second Black doctor in South Africa. At his insistence Jane and her sisters were removed from a mission school because he considered the education that they were receiving there to be narrow and inferior. They were transferred to a newly opened school which was later to become Trafalgar High School. But according to Jane it was no better – a small school in a two-roomed house with an inadequate teaching staff. When they complained of this to their brother he engaged trained tutors to assist them. Nevertheless conditions improved at Trafalgar. The school grew and acquired new buildings, more and better teachers. Jane and her sister Zobeida were members of the second group of matriculants in its history.
When it was time for her sister and herself to acquire a university education, instead of the University of Cape Town, they chose to study at the Native College of Fort Hare as it was then known.
Jane and her sister returned to Cape Town in 1926. Neither had graduated as yet, Jane in particular, because Fort Hare lacked the academic staff to take her to graduate level in economics, her sister for a similar reason. The two then took employment, Jane as a teacher at a primary school, and they engaged private tutors to complete their studies. Jane finally graduated in 1931.
Jane and her brother Goolam attended lectures of the Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA) and the Lenin Club. It was at this time that a young man from Transkei, Isaac Bangani Tabata, met with Goolam Gool (Jane’s other brother) who introduced him to these discussions and debates, which naturally led on to his acquaintance with Jane. This was the beginning of a lifelong partnership and political collaboration between the two.
Along with figures such as Yudel Burlak, Clare Goodlatte, Dora and J.G Taylor, the three (Jane, IB Tabata and Goolam) became involved in the establishment of a new body – the Spartacist Club out of which arose the Workers Party of South Africa (WPSA). Its programme remained essentially the same as the original thesis produced in the Lenin Club but it was strengthened in accordance with Trotsky’s criticisms.
The white members of the WPSA were barred by their very skin colour from playing an active organisational role amongst the black population. This task fell mainly on the backs of the trio but they would not be alone for long. The organisational thrust of the WPSA took place on two fronts. The first opportunity was presented by the introduction of the notorious Hertzog Bills in 1935, which brought new restrictions on access of the black population to the land, their total disenfranchisement and the creation of the dummy Native Representation Council (NRC). When people rallied to oppose these drastic new measures in an historic conference in 1935, Jane, IB Tabata and Goolam were present to campaign vigorously for the total rejection these new bills, a boycott of the NRC and the building of a national unity of the oppressed. Tabata has related that the very presence of Jane and Goolam brought about an intense debate on how this body was to be named. Thus, instead of being called the the All Native Convention it became the All African Convention (AAC).
Jane, joined by political figures such as Ben Kies, Willem Van Schoor, R.O. Dudley and Alie Fataar, became active in the Teachers League of South Africa (TLSA). She played a major role in injecting progressive new ideas into the conservative body that it was at the time.
With the first moves of the ruling class to disenfranchise the coloured population, Jane and her comrades became actively involved in the creation of the Anti-Coloured Affairs Department (CAD) in 1943. Their efforts in mobilising the resistance of the people through this vehicle saw the first dummy Coloured Affairs Council boycotted out of existence.
With enough cadres to carry the work forward in the Cape, Jane, Tabata and Goolam devoted more of their time to carry the ideas of their movement into other parts of the country. Their efforts reached a peak with the unification of the AAC and the Anti-CAD in the Non-European Unity Movement (NEUM) in 1943. The NEUM adopted a Ten Point Programme by which it operated.
Jane and her comrades moved for the creation of the African People’s Democratic Union of Southern Africa (APDUSA) in 1961. Jane, amongst others, suffered a political ban in 1961. She left the country in 1963, together with Tabata and N.Honono to raise support for the struggle and to prepare the way for the training of freedom fighters that were being organised by the APDUSA.
In the 1970s the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) was ready to finally grant recognition to the Unity Movement of South Africa (UMSA) as it was now known. It was Kenneth Kaunda who opposed this and he succeeded on the basis that the OAU was constitutionally bound to decision-making on the basis of total unanimity.
It should be noted that despite the failures of the UMSA to gain official political credence, Jane and Tabata gained the personal respect of senior political figures across the African continent. They eventually settled in a home purchased by the organisation as its headquarters in Harare, Zimbabwe. Here they received the personal support of senior officials of the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) party which also offered them full citizenship of Zimbabwe.
In exile, Jane and Tabata never wavered in their purpose. Against all odds they doggedly sought to maintain their links with the struggle at home. In this period they produced literature which assessed the developments in South Africa on an ongoing basis, with the purpose of giving ideological guidance to those actively engaged in the struggle at home. They set in motion a plan to smuggle this literature into the country on a large scale.
IB Tabata died in exile in October 1990. Jane returned to South Africa for the burial of her lifelong comrade and partner. She returned permanently in 1992 to Gatesville, Cape Town. In 1993 she was elected President of the UMSA.
In her life time Jane Gool-Tabata became renowned as an unrelenting and uncompromising fighter. Her intolerance of any tendency to water down the ideas and principles, for which she stood, made her a particularly fearsome opponent in political debate. Jane did not consider herself to be a writer but she is known for her thought-provoking papers on the international situation which she was regularly selected to present to conferences of the Unity Movement and the APDUSA. She actively collaborated in the writings of her husband IB Tabata and while in exile she produced two works viz “The Crimes of Bantu Education” and “The Dispossessed Peasantry in South Africa”. Unfortunately the latter was never published.
Jane Gool – Tabata died on 6 May 1996 in Cape Town.
- The Crimes of Bantu Education
- The Dispossessed Peasantry in South Africa
- The Land Question and the Struggle For Freedom
- APDUSA. Gool-Tabata J. Available at http://www.apdusa.org.za/book-authors/gool-tabata-j/ . Accessed on 5 February 2019.
- Obituary: Jane Tabata by Norman Traub, Independent, 13 May 1996
- Gool - Tabata J. - APDUSA
- Land and Liberty! The Unity Movement and the Land Question, 1933 – 1976 by Robin Kayser