Struggle stalwart Laloo "Isu" Chiba. Photo: Ahmed Kathrada Foundation/ Yunus Chamda

Former President Kgalema Motlanthe on Saturday told mourners at the funeral of late struggle icon Laloo "Isu" Chiba that those elected in leadership positions had to humble themselves and be selfless leaders.

"When you have been elected to lead, you must remember that you are elected to be a servant of your membership and that of the people," he said.

Motlanthe, who sits on the Ahmed Kathrada board on which Chiba also served as a member, said in August he had accompanied Chiba to Robben Island with the leadership of the Economic Freedom Front.

The trip, he said, was in line with Kathrada's wish to take the leaders to the island for political insight.

While there, Motlanthe said Chiba recounted a story in which he and others were put in a bakkie following their arrest. The vehicle, however, had buckets carrying human waste and they opened up now and then during the journey. He said by the time they arrived, they were all covered in excrement

"The young leadership of the EFF was so humbled that they pledged to always uphold the values of the people of South Africa," he said.

The ex-leader who earlier described Chiba as a having a sharp mind, being humble and a good listener, said he wished the late struggle veteran could have also spoken to young leaders of the ANC who he said displayed arrogance and had little regard for the elders who came before them.

Meanwhile, speakers who addressed a packed hall at the Nirvana Secondary School in Lenasia where the service was held in the area where Chiba lived spoke of his contribution to the struggle and the liberation of South Africans oppressed during the Apartheid era.

Ahmed Kathrada Foundation board chairman Derek Hanekom said Chiba was driven by his hatred for injustice, while ANC member and Deputy Minister for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Andries Nel said at one stage Chiba had been offered a large pension payout, however, he opted for a lesser amount instead.'

Revelations of Chiba's love for cooking came to the fore, and during the boycott of Woolworths, he was the last man standing while others had abandoned the cause and began buying at the retail outlet again.

Lighter moments were also shared and included how Chiba always wore a T-shirt without a tie at important gatherings, this despite a fellow comrade advising him that he should start wearing one. A speaker said in his true fashion sense, he continued wearing just a shirt.

During the service, Chiba's son-in-law also revealed how the stalwart, who was best friends with Kathrada, like his friend also penned a letter to President Jacob Zuma on April 14 last year, advising him to step down with immediate effect for the sake of the country, saying under his leadership the ANC and South Africa had gone into a state of disarray.


He said even at the time of his death, his father-in-law remained a loyal member of the ANC.

Chiba died on Friday morning at his home after he suffered a heart attack last week. He was 87. 

He is survived by his wife his wife, Luxmi, three daughters - Gita, Kailash and Yaswanti, seven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.