Azanian People's Organisation

The Azanian People's Organisation (AZAPO) is a South African liberation movement and political party. The organisation's two student wings are the Azanian Students' Movement (AZASM) for high school learners and the other being for university level students called the Azanian Students' Convention (AZASCO), its women's wing is Imbeleko Women's Organisation, simply known as IMBELEKO. Its inspiration is drawn from the Black Consciousness Movement inspired philosophy of Black Consciousness developed by Steve Biko, Harry Nengwekhulu, Abram Onkgopotse Tiro, Vuyelwa Mashalaba and others, as well as Marxist Scientific Socialism.

Azanian People's Organisation
PresidentNelvis Qekema[1]
ChairpersonSimphiwe Hashe
Secretary-GeneralChris Swepu
Honourary PresidentMosibudi Mangena
FounderStephen Biko, Abram Onkgopotse Tiro, Harry Nengwekhulu, Mthuli ka Shezi, Mapetla Mohapi, Mongezi Sifika wa Nkomo and others.
Founded28 April 1978 (1978-04-28)
Merger ofBCMA in exile and AZAPO inside South Africa
Preceded byBlack People's Convention (BPC)
HeadquartersOffice Number 3, 5th Floor, Corner House, 77 Commissioner Street, Johannesburg
Student wingAzanian Students' Convention (AZASCO)
Youth wingAzanian Youth Organisation (AZAYO)
Women's wingImbeleko Women's Organisation
Armed wingAzanian National Liberation Army (AZANLA)
Student Wing for High School StudentsAzanian Students' Movement (AZASM)
Black Consciousness
Political positionLeft-wing to far-left
ColoursBlack, Red, and Orange      
SloganThe People's Movement"
National Assembly seats
0 / 400
Party flag


AZAPO was formed out of the prominent black consciousness organisations namely, Black People's Convention (BPC), the South African Students' Organisation (SASO) and the Black Community Programmes (BCP). These were three of the 17 black consciousness organisations that were banned on Wednesday, 19 October 1977 for their role in the 16 June 1976 Soweto uprisings. A year after the formation of AZAPO, in September 1979, at its conference in Roodepoort, the national executive was elected with Curtis Nkondo as its president.[2]:436 During 1987, AZAPO was banned by the South African government and forced underground and into exile.[2]:436 It would be unbanned in 1990.[2]:436 In October 1994, AZAPO merged with its sister organisation in exile, the Black Consciousness Movement of Azania (BCMA).[2]:436

AZAPO campaigned for the isolation of South Africa during its apartheid years by waging a "cultural boycott" in the country; black people increasingly regained their resolve to fight for their freedom and formed trade unions and civic organisations.

The armed wing of AZAPO was the Azanian National Liberation Army (AZANLA) which received support and military training from Iran, Yugoslavia, China, Libya, Botswana, Palestine, Syria, North Korea, Cuba, Zimbabwe and Eritrea. AZANLA is a successor to the Azanian People's Liberation Front (APLF) whose cadres received military training from countries such as Palestine, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq. There was an agreement with Iraq to train AZANLA combatants but that was thwarted by the First Gulf War in 1990. During the 1980s, it was engaged in a bloody internecine feud with the ANC which operated under the guise of the United Democratic Front (UDF).

AZAPO, along with its youth wing AZAYO were unbanned in 1990, which permitted it to continue its political programs legally. It was invited, but refused to participate in, the negotiations to end apartheid, a decision which led to the resignation of two senior members, Monwabisi Vuza and Imraan Moosa.[3] The party then boycotted the 1994 elections, but has participated in each of the elections since then. AZAPO won one seat in each of the 1999, 2004 and 2009 elections, but failed to win a seat in the 2014 general election.

The current leader (National President) of the party is Nelvis Qekema who was elected at the 25th National Congress held at University of Johannesburg, Soweto on December 4, 2021. He succeeded Strike Thokoane who was elected as president of AZAPO in 2017, during the party's 23rd National Congress in Meadowlands, Soweto.[4]

In February 2022, AZAPO and the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania (PAC) announced a new unity pact with the intention to contest elections together.[5]

Negotiations with SOPA

The party has had regular negotiations with SOPA aimed at merging the two parties, but these broke down in 2004, 2007 and again in 2013.[6][7]

Election results

National elections

Election[8] Total votes Share of vote Seats +/– Government
1999 27,257 0.17%
1 / 400
in opposition
2004 39,116 0.25%
1 / 400
±0 in opposition
2009 38,245 0.22%
1 / 400
±0 in opposition
2014 20,421 0.11%
0 / 400
1 extraparliamentary
2019 12,823 0.07%
0 / 400
±0 extraparliamentary

Provincial elections

Election[8] Eastern Cape Free State Gauteng Kwazulu-Natal Limpopo Mpumalanga North-West Northern Cape Western Cape
 %Seats  %Seats  %Seats  %Seats  %Seats  %Seats  %Seats  %Seats  %Seats
1999 -- -- 0.16%0/73 0.17%0/80 0.54%0/49 0.10%0/30 -- 0.41%0/30 --
2004 0.17%0/63 0.35%0/30 0.25%0/73 0.26%0/80 0.51%0/49 0.19%0/30 0.29%0/33 0.52%0/30 0.09%0/42
2009 0.20%0/63 -- 0.21%0/73 -- 0.38%0/49 0.23%0/30 0.25%0/33 0.60%0/30 0.07%0/42
2014 0.12%0/63 0.16%0/30 0.12%0/73 0.15%0/80 0.26%0/49 0.09%0/30 0.17%0/33 0.25%0/30 0.04%0/42
2019 0.08%0/63 0.09%0/30 0.08%0/73 0.07%0/80 0.17%0/49 0.04%0/30 0.08%0/33 0.25%0/30 0.02%0/42

Municipal elections

Election Votes  % +/–
2000 0.3%
2006 74,627 0.3%
2011 50,631 0.2%
2016[9] 28,049 0.07%
2021[10] 17,744 0.06%


  1. "Leadership – Azanian People's Organisation (AZAPO)". Retrieved 16 March 2022.
  2. Maaba, Brown Bavusile (2001). "The Archives of the Pan Africanist Congress and the Black Consciousness-Orientated Movements". History in Africa. 28: 417–438. doi:10.2307/3172227. JSTOR 3172227.
  3. "Azanian People's Organization (AZAPO)". South African History online. Retrieved 17 May 2014.
  4. "Strike Thokoane elected new Azapo leader". African Times Online News Website South | West | East | North | Africa. 7 May 2017. Retrieved 28 December 2017.
  5. Imraan Buccus (21 March 2022). "Azapo seeks renewal". New Frame. Retrieved 19 July 2022.
  6. "Azapo, Sopa merge ahead of polls". Independent Online. 6 June 2013. Retrieved 17 May 2014.
  7. "Impasse thwarts Azapo, Sopa merger". Independent Online. 5 December 2013. Retrieved 17 May 2014.
  8. "Results Dashboard". Retrieved 11 May 2019.
  9. "Results Summary - All Ballots" (PDF). Retrieved 11 August 2016.
  10. "Results Summary - All Ballots" (PDF). Retrieved 12 November 2021.
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