Paulus Howell Mopeli (alias Mopelinyana), originally from Witzieshoek Native Reserve, Harrismith District, Orange Free State (now Free State Province) firstserved a prison sentence in Johannesburg. He was then banished in 1952 to the Middelburg district of the [Eastern] Transvaal [now Mpumalanga].

His banishment order described him as ‘one of the “recalcitrant Natives” of Witzieshoek Native Reserve that was detained in the Bloemfontein Goal and subsequently imprisoned in Johannesburg Goal after causing disturbances. The Chief of Witzieshoek Reserve, Charles Mopeli feared, “that his presence in the Reserve will lead to dissention and unrest” and he should be banished to Middelburg, Transvaal.’

Thereafter, he was banished to Bothaspruit Farm in the District of Groblersdal [Sekhukhune District] in the Northern Transvaal [now Limpopo Province]. In March 1954, he was transferred to the Native Trust Farm Uitkyk No.92 in Groblersdal District.

It was reported that Mopelinyanawas not restricted to the farm and it was alleged that he used his freedom of movement to garner support for his ‘anti-state cause’ and that ‘left-leaning’ people came at night to the home he shared with his partner Treaty Mopeli.  He was also suspected of being an agent of ‘left-leaning’ movements.  The governemnt argued, it was in the ‘general public’s interest’ if the couple were removed from Groblersdal to somewhere rural where their influence would not have such great effect.

As a result the couple were transferredtothe banishment camp at Frenchdale in the Mafeking district, [Northern Cape], [now Mahikeng, North West Province]. Mopelinyana refused to accept any state allowance arguing that this would be tantamount to ‘compromising with the enemy,’ and he suffered great hardship. He remarked to a journalist in 1958, ‘I even doubt the government knows I am here. I am like a dead person’.

In 1965, the couple was again transferred to another site of banishment - Ewbank Farm in the Kuruman District of the Northern Cape. It was reported that Frenchdale was now needed for ‘Bantus’ that were to be moved from the ‘swartkolle’ Doornbult and Vergenoeg in the Mafeking District, and the six inhabitants of Frenchdale had to therefore be moved. Mopeli, who faced the authorities ‘with obstinate but dauntless and proud dignity,’ died in banishment on 21 September 1971.

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

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