Chikane was born to James and Erenia Chikane and he grew up in Soweto attending Naledi High School. As the son of a preacher in the Apostolic Faith Mission of South Africa, a South African Pentecostal church, Chikane was able to receive an education. After finishing primary school, Chikane went to the University of the North to study sciences in hopes of becoming a physician. However, while at the university, Chikane became involved in the Black Consciousness Movement (or the Stephen Biko movement), and met future post-apartheid South African leader and businessman, Cyril Ramaphosa, among others, the chair-person of Bidvest, a business listed on the JSE.
Chikane led protests at the university against apartheid, which resulted in his leaving the university without a degree in 1975. In early 1977, while working in the AFM as a layman, he was detained for a month under the Terrorism Act No 83 of 1967 but was eventually released after a judge dismissed his case. Chikane was eventually ordained by the church in 1980, when he began advocating social programs such as a soup kitchen and adult education within the church for its primarily African population.
For these actions, Chikane was suspended from the conservative minded AFM in 1981, which would last until his reinstatement in 1990. After suspension from the AFM, Chikane joined the Institute for Contextual Theology, a Christian think-tank inside of the South African Council of Churches which promoted Liberation Theology of which he became the general-secretary in 1987. On 20 August 1983 the United Democratic Front (South Africa) was launched in the Rocklands community hall, Mitchell's Plain, near Cape Town. After a conference of delegates from 565 organisations (400 were already members), a public rally was held, attended by about 10 000 people. Frank Chikane, the first major speaker, called the day "a turning point in the struggle for freedom". In 1985, Chikane was one of the leading promoters of the Kairos Document, a leading Christian denunciation of Apartheid. In late 1989, agents of the apartheid government attempted to assassinate Chikane by lacing his underwear with poison, two of the suspects being former Police Minister Adriaan Vlok and his then police chief Johan van der Merwe. Each of them received suspended 10-year sentences. Vlok sought forgiveness from Rev. Chikane in 2006 by washing his feet.
From 1987 to 1994, Chikane was secretary general of the SACC. In 1995 he earned a master of public administration from the Harvard Kennedy School. From 1997 onward, he has been a member of the African National Congress' National Executive Committee. Since 1999, Chikane has been the Director General of the presidency of South Africa under Thabo Mbeki. He was also consulting for Presidents Kgalema Motlanthe and Jacob Zuma. He is currently the President of The AFM International an international religious body to promote the image of the Apostolic Faith Mission worldwide and to coordinate fellowship between AFM National Churches in all countries.
He recently published politically charged articles in one of South Africa's national newspapers the Star. These articles served as a memoir of his time in government and were dubbed The Chikane Files.
- Mecoamere, Victor (27 May 2013). "Naledi High turns 50". Sowetan Live. Retrieved 23 July 2013.
- BBC NEWS | World | Africa | Apartheid murder plotters guilty
- S.Africa's apartheid police minister spared jail, Reuters South Africa, 17 August 2007
- 'I'm pleased that I know what happened' , Independent Online (South Africa), 17 August 2007