Struggle stalwart Laloo Chiba dies after a heart attack

Ahmed Kathrada and fellow Robben Island prisoner, Laloo Chiba, sharing a humorous moment at the hospital just before the surgery. Picture: Supplied
Ahmed Kathrada and fellow Robben Island prisoner, Laloo Chiba, sharing a humorous moment at the hospital just before the surgery. Picture: Supplied

Struggle stalwart Laloo Chiba has died at the age of 87.

The Ahmed Kathrada Foundation Board member and former Robben Island prisoner was hospitalised a few days ago after suffering a mild heart attack.

He was discharged this week and died at his home in Lenasia, the foundation said today.

Despite his age, Chiba was still an active member of society, and was outspoken on the plight of Palestinians.

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

He was jailed in B-Section, alongside Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu and Ahmed Kathrada.

Chiba considered Kathrada his best friend and political mentor and was devastated after Kathrada died in March.

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.

In May this year Chiba joined other well known South Africans in the Dignity Strike for Palestinian prisoners who are serving jail sentences without their cases going to court in Israeli prisons.

READ: Ramaphosa joins #DignityStrike for Palestinian prisoners

He also joined Gauteng MEC for Roads and Transport, Ismail Vadi, in a hunger strike protest for the Palestinians.

READ: The salt water challenge: SA joins Palestinian prisoners in solidarity strike

Chiba was also outspoken against injustice and racism.

In an article earlier this year on the importance of the Doctors Pact, which was signed 70 years ago, he wrote, together with Zaakirah Vadi:

“In South Africa today, there are many issues that impact us collectively as a nation.

"These include unemployment and poverty, a lack of access to education and healthcare, inequality, corruption, and crime, among others.

"The Doctors’ Pact teaches us that collaboration – not only across race, but across all divides – is essential to achieving broader objectives.”

He said the Doctors’ Pact remained as important today as it was in the past in curbing racial tension and promoting nonracialism.

“Today, these ideals are best encapsulated in our Constitution. Ongoing awareness and education about the Constitution is essential to ensure that policies do not merely remain on paper, but become part of lived experiences.

"The pact provided a platform and structure that could effectively reach out to the grassroots. Today, in the wake of racial tension and xenophobic violence, similar mechanisms – reactive and proactive – should be considered.”

Read Chiba’s views on the Doctors’ Pact here:

Modern lessons from the Doctors’ Pact

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

Funeral details will be communicated as soon as they are finalised.

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