Dr Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri was born in the old Free State province, South Africa, where she received her early education. She completed her secondary education in Natal and afterwards attended the University of Fort Hare where she received her first degree.
She taught for two years in the former Natal province, followed by a period in exile in Swaziland, the United States and Zambia.
In the United States, she obtained a doctorate in Sociology and taught at Rutgers University, New Jersey. She was actively involved in the ANC region in New York, serving as a member of both the ANC and the ANC Women's League branch executive.
Dr Matsepe-Casaburri taught and worked for the United Nations Institute for Namibia in Lusaka, Zambia. Throughout this period, she was active in the ANC Roma and Northmead branches, serving on the branch executive and Women's League. She also served on the National Education committee of the ANC.
On her return to South Africa in 1990, she was appointed Executive Director of the Education Development Trust and was active in the education movement and in policy development for the new South Africa. She was also active in the fields of gender, education, economic development and local government.
She served on the ANC provincial Executive Committee in the Free State and remained a member of the ANC National Executive Committee; she served on its Economic Transformation and Media and Communications Committees.
She served as South Africa's minister of Communications from 1999 until her death on 6 April 2009.