Sebitji Frans Matlala’s wife recounted

My husband was taken away by train fromMatlala's Location, Pietersburg District, Transvaal [now Polokwane, Limpopo].  I do not remember what year that was. I did not ever get a letter from him during all the years afterwards, even until the day in June 1960 when he walked in. I got a shock. He collapsed. Then he struggles to his feet and asked, ‘How are you?’ I asked him how he had come there, and he said he had come by train to Pietersburg (Polokwane) and then by bus to Sandfontein. From there he had walked about five miles to my house. He said that he had walked a few yards and stopped, and then he had struggles and walked some more. He said that he was well, but he was not well. He lay in bed for a week, and then he died on Sunday. After that first day he did not ever speak again.

Sebitji Matlala was banished on 28 July 1952to Wiscombe in the Vryburg district of the Northern Cape (now North West Province). While in banishment, hesuffered paralysis on one side of his body and was physically handicapped.

 Helen Joseph writes that“too ill and helpless to live alone, he had been looked after by the family of an African government employee on the farm”¦.No one will ever know from what (Sebitji) Matlala died”¦But”¦(Sebitiji) Matlala’s homecoming is one of the most grievous sins to be laid at any government’s door.” What kind “of inhumanity” she goes on to ask “sent that dying (physically handicapped man) five hundred miles alone?” Imagine “what he must have suffered as he dragged himself home that last weary miles. The miracle is that he reached home alive – that he did not die at the roadside, a discarded human being.”

*Sebitji Frans Matlala banishment order and Helen Joseph refer to Sebitji as Sibija Matlala.


• 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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