Laloo Isu Chiba

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Biographical information


Laloo Chiba


Member of the TIC, SACP, MK and ANC, Member of Parliament, recipient of The National Order of Luthuli in Silver

First name: 
Last name: 
Location of birth: 
5 November 1930
Prison Name : 
Robben Island
Prison Number : 
Prison Release Date: 

Laloo Isu Chiba was born on 5 November 1930 in Johannesburg where he was also raised. The 1956 Treason Trial sparked his interest in politics, which led him to join the Transvaal Indian Congress (TIC). In 1959, he joined the South African Communist Party (SACP).

Chiba joined uMkhonto we Sizwe  (MK) in 1961 and was involved in its first sabotage units. By 1962, he was promoted to platoon commander of MK. Owing to his commitment and leadership, he was asked to become a member of the Second National High Command in 1963 with Wilton Mkwayi as the leader. Mkwayi was one of the 156 accused in the 1956 Treason Trial who had inadvertently been released during the 1960 state of emergency.

In April 1963, Chiba and his comrades Solly Vania, Indres Naidoo and Shirish Nanabhai were arrested after planning to sabotage a railway line. He was taken to Marshall Square and held in solitary confinement before being taken to the railway headquarters for interrogation. During this period, Chiba was detained under the newly passed 90 Day detention law. He was brutally tortured and assaulted by the Security Police leaving him deaf in one ear. However, they failed to get him to confess and implicate his comrades. Unable to extract any information from him, they were unable to lay charges. Chiba was released and soon went underground and resumed the struggle.

Chiba served in the Second High command until his arrest in July 1964 alongside Babla Saloojee, Paul Joseph, Mac Maharaj, Steve Naidoo and Amien Kajee. After his arrest, he was taken to the Greys Building (the Security Branch offices) where he was subjected to sleep deprivation. He was later held at the Langlaagte police station under the 90 day detention law before being transferred to Pretoria Central Prison.

In October 1964, together with five others, Chiba was charged with sabotage and membership of a banned organisation. His trial became known as the "Little Rivonia" as this was the second MK High Command arrested by the security police, Chiba was sentenced to 18 years imprisonment which he served on Robben Island.

On the Island Chiba stayed in B Section alongside other leading figures in the struggle. During his imprisonment, Chiba and Mac Maharaj were responsible for Nelson Mandela’s manuscript of his autobiography Long Walk to Freedom. Mandela would write up the manuscript which was then given to Chiba, who spent the next night transferring Mandela’s handwriting to his own almost microscopic shorthand, reducing ten pages of foolscap to a single sheet of paper. It would be Maharaj’s job to smuggle the manuscript to the outside world.”

On his release, from Robben Island, in December 1982, Chiba became active in the United Democratic Front (UDF) and continued to work in the African National Congress (ANC) underground. Chiba was detained again for seven and a half months during the 1985 state of emergency. On his release, he was instructed by the UDF to go underground and advance the cause of the UDF emerging in January 1987.

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

In 2004, the South African Government conferred Isu Laloo Chiba with The Order of Luthuli in Silver for his lifetime contribution to the struggle for a non-racial, non-sexist, just and democratic South Africa.

• O'Malley P. Chiba, Laloo from O’Malley ”“ The Heart of Hope [online] Available at Accessed on 19 July 2012
• SADET, The Road to Democracy in South Africa ”“ Vol.1 [1960 - 1970], Zebra Press, 2004, Cape Town ”“ p.606
• Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, (2011), Role revealed of Madiba’s comrades in Long Walk to Freedom from the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, [online] Available at  [Accessed on 19 July 2012]
• The Presidency, (2004), Laloo  Chiba (1930”“ ) from The Presidency [online] Available at  [Accessed on 19 July 2012]
• Truth and Reconciliation Commission, (1996), from the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, 24 July, [online] Available at [Accessed on 19 July 2012]

Last updated : 24-May-2016

This article was produced for South African History Online on 15-Mar-2012