The case of Douglas Ramokgopa illustrates various aspects of banishment: the issue of freedom of movement while in banishment and, in this instance, the sheer intransigence of the national Native Affairs Department (NAD) regarding his movement, communication between local and national authorities regarding a banished person; movement out of banishment, and the conditions imposed in this regard.
Douglas Ramokgopa and Ruben Makgato were accused of acting as the connection between leftist groups operating in Johannesburg and the Batlokwa community of Ramagoep Location, Zoutpansberg District, Transvaal [now Limpopo Province]. On 14 May 1958, he was banished from Ramagoep Location to Mont Plaisire Farm No. G.E 26.35, Matatiele District, [Eastern Province, now Eastern Cape].
In May 1963, Ramokgopa made a written request to be permitted to return to his home. He promised to ‘solemnly undertake to be loyal and obedient to the Chief;’ to not ‘interfere in any way with the Tribal Administration;’ to ‘give full support to the Chief and his Tribal Authority in all their lawful undertakings,’ and to also not ‘attend any unauthorised or illegal meetings in the District.’ Simultaneously, there was a letter from the Native Commissioner (NC) in Matatiele [Eastern Province, now Eastern Cape] strongly recommending the release from banishment of Ramokgopa due to his old age - he was then 79. It was noted that Ramokgopa had been in banishment for over six years;had displayed good behaviour; lived alone on a Trust Farm with a little garden, and was employed by the Bantu Trust, earning approximately R11 per month.
On 10 July 1963, the Bantu Affairs Department (BAD) Secretary, J.J. Klopper, signed a letter that permitted Ramokgopa to return to Soutpansberg under the following conditions: that he travelled by public transport at the cost of the state and via the shortest route - a third class ticket; that immediately on arrival home he checked in with the NC in Soekmekaar, and that he did not involve himself in community matters.
On 30 August 1963, Ramokgopa gave his written commitment to comply with the terms of his release. Instructed to tender a writtenapology to the chief, he also did this, and indeed requested the forgiveness of the community.
He returned to Soutpansberg in September 1963. Douglas Ramokgopa was agitated when he received an order indicating to him that he could remain in his home area until May 1969. He had to be comforted by the Human Rights Welfare Committee that it was normal practice to receive such a letter and that in all likelihood he would receive further such orders until the banishment order was finally withdrawn.
His order was withdrawn on 30 July 1969.
Contribution by Professor S. Badat on Banishment, Rhodes University, 2012. From the book, Forgotten People - Political Banishment under Apartheid by Professor S. Badat