Mr Radebe became a student activist and joined the underground structures of the African National Congress (ANC) during the student uprisings in 1976. In 1976 he served his legal articles in Durban and in 1977
he left the country for Mozambique on instruction of the ANC.
Mr Radebe worked as a Radio journalist with Radio Freedom in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania for two years then worked for the ANC's International Department in Zambia. He created underground ANC and South African Communist Party (SACP) structures inside South Africa from Lesotho, giving political direction to activists. He underwent military training with Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) and he was arrested in Johannesburg and convicted under the Terrorism Act. His 10 year sentence was reduced to six years on appeal in 1986.
While in Robben Island he was active in the ANC's political department, later he was head of the department by the time he left Robben Island. He was released after organising a successful 12-day hunger strike to speed up the release of political prisoners in 1990. He also served as a project Co-ordinator for the National Association of Democratic Lawyers (Nadel) between 1990 and 1991 and eventually he was elected Deputy Chairperson of the ANC, Southern Natal Region in 1990.
Mr Radebe served as a Secretary of the SACP's interim Leadership Core between 1990 and 1991; then became the Chairperson of ANC's Southern Natal Region from 1991 to 1994. He also served on the Natal Regional Dispute Resolution Committee and as a Chairperson of the Regional ANC Peace Forum during the same period; later in 1995 he became a member of the Ex Political Prisoners Committee.
He served as Minister of Public Works of the Republic of South Africa from 1994 to 16 June 1999; and he became a member of the Business Trust from 1998 to 2003 and as a Chairperson of the Nelson Mandela 80th birthday Committee in 1998.
Prior to his appointment as Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, Mr Radebe has served as Minister of Public Enterprises from 17 June 1999 to 28 April 2004; and as Minister of Transport of the Republic of South Africa from 29 April 2004 to 10 May 2009.
He was a Deputy Chairperson of the ANC in the Northern Cape, and later acting Provincial Chairperson in 2004 and a Board member of the Local Organising Committee of the 2010 FIFA Soccer World Cup.