He was educated in Zanzibar and went on to Makercrc University College and to London, where he studied English literature, philosophy, psychology and journalism.
He spent six years as a bank clerk in Acton, London, before returning to the Zanzibar Clove Growers Association, going wholly into politics in 1957, as leader of the Zanzibar Nationalist Party, which started as a militant party, but was gradually claimed by middle class and Arab interests, preserving strong ties with the Sultan of Zanzibar.
He returned and was appointed Minister of Defence and External Affairs in the new government, formed by the Afro-Shirazi Party. But, after the merger of Tanganyika and Zanzibar in April 1964, Karume was only too keen to have him, and his pro-Chinese ideas, removed from the island to the mainland, where he could not be a threat. He became Minister of State in the mainland government and from then onwards his visits to the island became increasingly infrequent. He was successively Minister for Commerce and Cooperatives 1965-7, Minister for Health 1967-8, Minister for Commerce and Industries 1968-70, and Minister of Economic Affairs and Development Planning from November 1970 to February 1972.
By this stage his relations with the Zanzibar leadership were so bad that he had not dared set foot on the island for many years. Karume was thought to have pressed for his dismissal from his mainland ministry as well, but he kept his position until February 1972, when he was dropped from President Nyerere’s cabinet and offered no alternative post.
Karume was assassinated by four gunmen on April 7. Babu was reported to have been on a fishing trip at the time, but some of those implicated were alleged to be his old Umma party supporters. Shortly after the incident he was detained.
He quarrelled with the conservative ZNP leadership and tried to make it into a mass Marxist party. He failed and resigned shortly before the July 1963 elections, to found the Umma (People’s) Party. Umma was not ready to fight in the elections which the ZNP carried on a minority vote. But Babu then organised to unite the trade unions and other groups opposed to the government. He was arrested and expelled from his own party, which was finally banned. He rowed a small boat from Zanzibar to Dar es Salaam and was there on January 12, 1964, when the Zanzibar revolution occurred, deposing the ZNP government.
Fast thinking, fast talking Zanzibari with longer experience of island politics than almost any other. A Marxist and strong admirer of Cuba and China, he did much to introduce the Chinese to Zanzibar and politically was too far left for the island ruler Sheikh Abeid Karume, who was glad to see him as a permanent minister on the mainland. His influential position in Dar es Salaam slipped in recent years, nor was he able to return to Zanzibar.