Thomas Mtobi Mapikela born in the Cape in 1869, he trained as a carpenter in Grahamstown and later established a successful business as a builder and contractor in Bloemfontein. In 1909 he was a member of the delegation to Britain to protest the Act of Union. As president of the Orange Free State Native Congress, he played a prominent role in the founding of the African National Congress (ANC) in 1912, and its official speaker for over 25 years Brought up speaking Xhosa and English, he also learned the Sotho and Tswana languages of his adopted Bloemfontein and was thus a natural choice to preside at ANC conferences.
In 1914 he again travelled to Britain as a member of the deputation protesting the 1913 Land Act. Head of the Bloemfontein advisory board from its establishment in the 1920s, he was for 13 years the treasurer of the South African Location Advisory Boards Congress. In the 1930s he served on the executive committees of both the ANC and the All African Convention, and from 1937 to his death in 1945 he represented the urban areas of the Transvaal and Orange Free State in the Natives' Representative Council. He helped draft the ANC's 1919 constitution and also the 1943 Africans' Claims.