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Isaac Bangani Tabata (1909 - 1990)

The Order of Luthuli in

Isaac Bangani Tabata (1909 - 1990) Awarded for:
Exceptional contribution to the founding of organisations which forged unity among the oppressed across race and class boundaries.

Profile of Isaac Bangani Tabata

Isaac Bangani Tabata, political activist and author, was born near Queenstown in the Eastern Cape and educated at Lovedale and Fort Hare. In 1931, he left university and moved to Cape Town, where he worked as a truck driver. He joined the Lorry Drivers' Union and became a member of its executive. He also joined the Cape African Voters' Association. In 1933, he started attending meetings of the Trotskyist-oriented Lenin Club and subsequently was instrumental in founding the Workers' Party of South Africa, an offshoot of the Lenin Club. He assisted in founding two organisations, the All-African Convention (AAC) in 1935 and the Non-European Unity Movement in 1943, later known as the Unity Movement of South Africa. As an organiser of the AAC, Tabata made annual trips to the Transkei in the late 1940s and early 1950s. The political necessities of the time forced the people to organise on a nation-wide scale. Tabata was banned in 1956.

In 1961, he established and became President of the African People's Democratic Union of Southern Africa as a unifying instrument following the Sharpeville massacre of the previous year. In his 1962 Presidential Address to the African People's Democratic Union of Southern Africa, Tabata depicted the working class as the historical unifier of the disparate structural locations of oppressed peoples. Tabata went to exile in Zambia in 1963 and also lived in Tanzania and Zimbabwe. He was married to Jane Gool, also a political activist. Through fierce intellectualism and the unquenchable thirst for human freedom, I B Tabata made an indelible mark on the history of the liberation struggle.