JOHANNESBURG -- Zephania Mothopeng, 77, who broke away from the African National Congress to help form and lead the militant Pan Africanist Congress, died Oct. 23 at a hospital here. He had cancer.

Mr. Mothopeng, who was president of PAC, lived his last years a few blocks from fellow black nationalists Nelson Mandela and Walter Sisulu, but his militant stance kept him far from the more moderate ANC leaders.

Like Mandela and Sisulu, he spent years in prison for his political activities. Like his neighbors, he became a symbol of the black struggle against the government.

His release from Johannesburg's Diepkloof Prison in November 1988 preceded changes that included freedom for the ANC leaders and government promises to include blacks in a new constitution.

In their first public statements after being freed, both Mr. Mothopeng and Mandela urged the continuation of the armed struggle against the government. But unlike Mandela and other ANC leaders, Mr. Mothopeng opposed talks with the government intended to pave the way for a new constitution.

The Pan Africanist Congress refuses to recognize the white-led government and opposes sharing power.

Mr. Mothopeng was born in South Africa's Orange Free State and became involved in politics in 1940, when he joined the ANC's Youth Wing. In 1959, unhappy with the ANC's contact with activists of other races, he and others broke away from the ANC and formed the Pan Africanist Congress.

It is a militant group compared with the ANC, urging black self-reliance in the land Mr. Mothopeng called Azania. The PAC contends blacks must struggle for their freedom and find dignity in the process, rather than gaining equality through white concession or compromise.

He was jailed three times for his political activities, the longest stretch beginning in 1976 after his conviction on terrorism charges. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison and elected president of the Pan Africanist Congress in 1986 while imprisoned.