Selby Themba Ngendane was born about 1929 in the Eastern Cape and attended Fort Hare, where he was active in the African National Congress Youth League during the 1952 Defiance Campaign. Moving to Johannesburg to study law in 1953, he joined the Africanist movement in Orlando township and became its secretary about 1955.
At the Pan Africanist Congress's inaugural conference of April 1959, he was elected secretary for foreign affairs. He was considered a playboy by some who knew him, but his life style concealed a strong dedication to political goals.
Following the Sharpeville emergency, he was sentenced to two years in prison. On his release in 1962 he attempted to flee South Africa but was caught. While on bail he made a second escape attempt but was again apprehended and sentenced to five years in prison, which he served on Robben Island.
He has since been restricted to his home area of Herschel in the Cape.