Struggle stalwart Laloo Chiba dies

Cape Town – Struggle stalwart Laloo Chiba has died, the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation announced on Friday.

Chiba, 87, was a board member of the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation and a former Robben Island prisoner.

"Chiba had a mild heart attack a few days ago and was hospitalised. He was discharged this week and passed away at his home in Lenasia," reads the statement.

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"Chiba was a former Umkhonto weSizwe platoon commander and was sentenced to 18 years imprisonment on Robben Island in the Little Rivonia Trial.

"He was jailed in the Robben Island prison's B-Section, alongside Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Ahmed Kathrada and others.

"Chiba considered Kathrada his best friend and political mentor and was devastated after Kathrada passed away in March this year," the statement continues.

Funeral details not finalised

"He was also deeply grieved at the recent passing of fellow Robben Island prisoner, Eddie Daniels, whom he had visited just a few weeks ago in the Western Cape."

Chiba is survived by his wife Luxmi, and his three daughters and grandchildren.

"We do not have details of his funeral as yet and this will be communicated as soon as it is finalised."

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In 2004, Chiba was awarded the National Order of Luthuli.

According to a profile on the Presidency's website, Chiba was born on November 5, 1930.

"A member of the South African Communist Party and the Transvaal Indian Congress, he was profoundly affected by the extreme violence of the apartheid regime during the Sharpeville massacre in 1960. This incident convinced him of the need for armed struggle and controlled sabotage to pressurise the apartheid regime into negotiations," reads the profile.

'Brutally tortured, interrogated'

Chiba joined the ANC's armed wing, Umkhonto weSizwe (MK), in 1961. By 1962, he had been promoted to platoon commander.

"His commitment and leadership was recognised by his comrades and he was asked to become a member of the Second National High Command in 1963."

"Chiba was brutally tortured by the Special Branch when he was arrested after his comrades were caught sabotaging a railway line. The Special Branch failed in their efforts to break him and, not being able to extract any information from him, it was unable to lay charges. Chiba was released – deaf in one ear from the torture he endured – only to be re-detained in 1964 and subjected to further remorseless interrogation," reads the profile.

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Chiba was charged with membership of the High Command of MK in October 1964 and sentenced to 18 years’ imprisonment on Robben Island.

"On his release in 1982, he became active in the United Democratic Front and continued to work in the ANC underground."

Chiba was elected as a Member of Parliament in the first and second democratic elections in 1994 and 1999.

'Deep sadness'

President Jacob Zuma in a statement expressed "deep sadness and conveyed his heartfelt condolences on the passing" of Chiba.

Zuma acknowledged Chiba’s service to Umkhonto weSizwe and his contribution to the struggle.

"On behalf of government and the people of the Republic of South Africa, we wish to extend our heartfelt condolences to the Chiba family, relatives and the African National Congress, on the loss of this outstanding leader and patriot," Zuma said.

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