Maema Matlala

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banished person

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Maema Matlala, an old man who had served in East Africa during the First World War,was related by blood, to the royal family,  was the second most senior councilor in the royal house (moÅ¡ate).

He was arrested in 1952, served a jail sentence of three months, and was then allowed to return to gaMatlala. He was arrested for opposing Native Affairs Department (NAD) injunctions regarding cattle culling and other aspects of betterment. Soon after his return, ‘four uniformed policemen and three detectives arrived at his residence, Matlala's Location, Pietersburg District, Transvaal [now Polokwane, Limpopo], and told him that he and his wife and family must all get into the vans, to be taken away’. He responded that ‘when you go to war you don’t take your wife with you.’ It worked – he, alone, was then banished on 7 March 1951 to Bushbuckridge, Pilgrims Rest District, Transvaal  [formerly Eastern Transvaal, now Mpumalanga] with nothing. The authorities gave him only mealies for food.

When Alfred Matlala was imposed as a chief, he evicted Maema Matlala’s children from the royal house and their homes were destroyed.

In 1962, Helen Joseph interviewed his partner who said that it was only after five years that she ‘heard from him that he was in Bushbuckridge, but now I don’t hear from him at all’.  While banished he received a meagre £2.7.6 (2 pounds 7 shillings and 6 pence) every two months.

On receiving some money from the Human Rights Welfare Committee(HRWC), he responded: ‘We are more than thankful seeing that we are made people again.’There were attempts by state officials to win both him and a fellow banished person, Klaas Matlala, over but they were not interested. His position was that ‘When I go home, I shall be accepted by the people.’ His banishment order was revoked on 9 February 1966.

• Contribution by Professor S. Badat on Banishment, Rhodes University, 2012. From the book, Forgotten People - Political Banishment under Apartheid by Professor S. Badat.

Last updated : 13-Oct-2012

This article was produced for South African History Online on 11-Oct-2012