On the 9th February 1968 a significant number of SWAPO members involved in the Namibian War of Independence, were arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment. They were sent to the Robben Island soon after sentencing, and were held in the Zinc Tronk. This prison had previously accommodated people suffering from TB and other easily transmittable diseases. Being one of the unhealthiest sections of the Island to be held in, some of the prisoners detained there contracted TB and developed Asthma. Eventually, in 1972, after persistent protest actions, the Namibian prisoners were moved to the solitary confinement cells in the Maximum Security Prison (MSP). In 1976 they were moved to the D section of the general sections of the MSP; except for their leader Herman Andimba Toivo ya Toivo. He remained in the B-section with other leaders like (former President) Nelson Mandela. A total of 6 SWAPO prisoners were sent to Robben Island between 1968 and 1979.
When they were sentenced, Toivo speaking on behalf of all Namibians (the detained ones and the ones at home) said: “We find ourselves here in a foreign country, convicted under laws made by people whom we have always considered as foreigners. We find ourselves tried by a Judge who is not our countryman and who has not shared our background. You, My Lord, decided that you had the right to try us, because your Parliament gave you that right. That ruling has not and could not have changed our feelings. We are Namibians and not South Africans. We do not now, and will not in the future recognise your right to govern us; to make laws for us in which we had no say; to treat our country as if it were your property and us as if you were our masters.”