Born in 1918 Hlapane was a factory worker. He played an active part in the African National Congress from the time the Nationalist government came to power in 1948. A former member of the Communist Party of South Africa, after the treason trial he turned state witness during the 1960s, testifying in many trials against his former comrades.
In November 1965 when Bram Fischer (who worked with the Defence Team in the Rivonia Trial of 1964) was arrested, charged with violating the Suppression of Communism Act and conspiracy to commit sabotage, Hlapane was used by the prosecution as a state witness. Umkhonto We Sizwe allegedly took its revenge by murdering Hlapane on 16 December 1982.
• History of South Africa: Segregation