In 1876, Jabavu took over editorship of the Isigidimi samaXhosa ("The Xhosa Messenger"), and by the early 1880s had become an important political force. Tengo Jabavu was also known as a proponent of women"s rights as well as public education. In recognition of his political influence, a group of prominent Cape Colony political figures approached Tengo Jabavu in 1883 with a request for him to stand for election to the Cape Parliament.
They recommended that he represent one of the constituencies of the Cape where Black African voters formed a significant percentage of the electorate, such as Victoria East.
Nonetheless, he later lent his powerful support to the more liberal leaders of the Cape"s South African Party against the repressive policies of Rhodes"s "Progressives"
The eldest of these sons, Davidson Don Tengo Jabavu, would become a respected author and activist in his own right. The second eldest, Alexander, succeeded John Tengo Jabavu as editor of Imvo Zabantsundu, following his 1921 death in the home of Doctorate.D.T. Jabavu at Fort Hare.