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Map of the black homelands in South Africa as of 1986
Map of the black homelands in South Africa as of 1986
Map of the black homelands in Namibia as of 1978
Map of the black homelands in Namibia as of 1978

A bantustan was any tribal reserve for black inhabitants of South Africa and South-West Africa (now Namibia), as part of the racial segregation policies of apartheid. Ten bantustans were established in South Africa, and ten in neighbouring South-West Africa (then under South African administration), for the purpose of concentrating there members of designated ethnic groups, thus making each of those territories ethnically homogeneous.

The term was first used in the late 1940s, and was coined from 'Bantu' (meaning 'people' in the Bantu languages) and '-stan' (meaning 'land of' in the Persian, Urdu, Hindi and Armenian languages, equivalent to the Latin ending -ia and the Germanic -land). It was regarded as a disparaging term by some critics of the apartheid-era government's 'homelands' (from Afrikaans tuisland). The word 'bantustan', today, is often used in a pejorative sense when describing a country or region that lacks any real legitimacy or power, and that sometimes emerges from national or international gerrymandering.

Some of the bantustans received nominal independence. In South Africa, Transkei, Venda, Bophuthatswana, and Ciskei in South Africa were declared independent, while others (like KwaZulu, Lebowa, and QwaQwa), received partial autonomy, but were never granted independence. In South-West Africa, Ovamboland, Kavangoland, and East Caprivi were granted self-determination. The condition of sovereign independent states was not recognised internationally.


[edit] Creation

Well before the National Party came to power in 1948, South African governments had established "reserves" in 1913 and 1936, with the intention of segregating black South Africans from whites. National Party Minister for Native Affairs (and later Prime Minister) Hendrik Frensch Verwoerd sought to build on this, introducing a series of measures that were intended to reshape South African society such that whites would be the demographic majority. The creation of the homelands or Bantustans was a central element of this strategy because blacks were to be made involuntary citizens of these homelands, losing their original South African citizenship and voting rights. This would enable whites to remain in control of South Africa.

Verwoerd argued that the Bantustans were the "original homes" of the native peoples of South Africa. In 1951, the government of Daniel Francois Malan introduced the Bantu Authorities Act to establish "homelands" allocated to the country's different black ethnic groups. These amounted to 13% of the country's land, the remainder being reserved for the white population. Local tribal leaders were co-opted to run the homelands, and uncooperative chiefs were forcibly deposed. Over time, a ruling black élite emerged with a personal and financial interest in the preservation of the homelands. While this aided the homelands' political stability to an extent, their position was still entirely dependent on South African support.

The role of the homelands was expanded in 1959 with the passage of the Bantu Self-Government Act, which set out a plan called "Separate Development". This enabled the homelands to establish themselves as self-governing, quasi-independent states. This plan was stepped up under Verowerd's successor as prime minister, John Vorster, as part of his "enlightened" approach to apartheid. However, the true intention of this policy was to make South Africa's blacks nationals of the homelands rather than of South Africa--thus removing the few rights they still had as citizens. The homelands were encouraged to opt for independence, as this would greatly reduce the number of black citizens of South Africa. The process was completed by the Black Homelands Citizenship Act of 1970, which forcibly made blacks citizens of Bantustans, even if they had never set foot in their nominal "homeland", and cancelled their South African citizenship.

In parallel with the creation of the homelands, South Africa's black population was subjected to a massive programme of forced relocation. It has been estimated that 3.5 million people were forced from their homes from the 1960s through the 1980s, many being resettled in the Bantustans.

The government made clear that its ultimate aim was the total removal of the black population from South Africa. Connie Mulder, the Minister of Plural Relations and Development, told the House of Assembly on 7 February 1978:

If our policy is taken to its logical conclusion as far as the black people are concerned, there will be not one black man with South African citizenship ... Every black man in South Africa will eventually be accommodated in some independent new state in this honourable way and there will no longer be an obligation on this Parliament to accommodate these people politically.

But this goal was not achieved. Only about 55% of South Africa's population lived in the Bantustans; the remainder lived in South Africa proper, many in vast shanty-towns and slums on the outskirts of South African cities. This was, among other reasons, because the economy of white South Africa depended on access to a black labour force.

The Bantustans began to be given independence in 1976, with Transkei the first to obtain this status. But none of them received recognition from the outside world, which regarded them as little more than puppet states of South Africa. Indeed, all of them remained economically dependent on Pretoria. Their territories were broken up into numerous, non-contiguous enclaves, and the boundaries between these were very convoluted. In one instance, the South African embassy to Bophuthatswana had to be moved because it turned out that it had actually been built in South Africa rather than the homeland. In another instance, Transkei cut diplomatic relations with South Africa between 1978 and 1980 over a territorial dispute.

A similar policy was pursued in South African-occupied South West Africa (present-day Namibia), where ten Bantustans were created. (See Bantustans in South West Africa for more on this topic.)

[edit] Life in the Bantustans

The Bantustans were all extremely poor, as a result of deliberate government policies, as their boundaries were drawn to exclude valuable land and industries. Few local employment opportunities were available.

Their single most important home-grown source of revenue was the provision of casinos and topless revue shows, which the National Party government had prohibited in South Africa proper as being "immoral". This provided a lucrative source of income for the local elite, who constructed megaresorts such as Sun City in the homeland of Bophuthatswana. In this, and other respects, the South African Bantustans somewhat resembled the Native American Reservations in the United States and Indian Reservations in Canada, although the parallel is not exact.

However, the homelands were only kept afloat by massive subsidies from the South African government; for instance, by 1985 in Transkei, 85% of the homeland's income came from direct transfer payments from Pretoria. The Bantustans' governments were invariably corrupt and little wealth trickled down to the local populations, who were forced to seek employment as so-called "guest workers" in South Africa proper. Millions of people had to work in often appalling conditions, away from their homes for months at a time. – for example, 65% of Bophuthatswana's population worked outside the 'homeland'.

Not surprisingly, the homelands were extremely unpopular among the urban black population, many of whom lived in squalor in slum housing. Their working conditions were often equally poor, as they were denied any significant rights or protections in South Africa proper. The allocation of individuals to specific homelands was often quite arbitrary. Many individuals assigned to homelands did not live in or originate from the homelands to which they were assigned, and the division into designated ethnic groups often took place on an arbitrary basis, particularly in the case of people of mixed ethnic ancestry.

[edit] Post-1994

With the demise of the apartheid regime in South Africa, the Bantustans were dismantled and their territory reincorporated into the Republic of South Africa. The drive to achieve this was spearheaded by the African National Congress as a central element of its programme of reform. Reincorporation was mostly achieved peacefully, although there was some resistance from the local elites, who stood to lose out on the opportunities for corruption provided by the homelands. The dismantling of the homelands of Bophuthatswana and Ciskei was particularly difficult. In Ciskei, South African security forces had to intervene in March 1994 to defuse a political crisis.

From 1994, most parts of the country were constitutionally redivided into new provincial governments.

[edit] List of Bantustans

The homelands are listed below with the ethnic group for which each homeland was designated. Four were nominally independent (the so-called TVBC states of the Transkei, Venda, Bophuthatswana and the Ciskei). The other six had limited self-government:

The first Bantustan was the Transkei, under the leadership of Chief Kaizer Daliwonga Matanzima in the Cape Province for the Xhosa nation. Perhaps the best known one was KwaZulu for the Zulu nation in Natal Province, headed by a member of the Zulu royal family Chief Mangosuthu ("Gatsha") Buthelezi in the name of the Zulu king.

Lesotho and Swaziland were not Bantustans, but independent countries, and are former British Protectorates. These countries are mostly or entirely surrounded by South African territory, and are almost totally dependent on South Africa, but have never had any formal political dependence on South Africa, and were recognised as sovereign states by the international community from the time they were granted their independence by Britain in the 1960s.

[edit] Usage in non-South African contexts

The term "Bantustan" has also been used in a number of non-South African contexts, generally to refer to actual or perceived attempts to create ethnically-based states or regions. Its connection with apartheid has meant that the term is now generally used in a pejorative sense as a form of criticism:

  • "The term 'Bantustan' was used by apartheid's apologists in reference to the partition of India in 1947. However, it quickly became pejorative in left and anti-apartheid usage, where it remained, while being abandoned by the National Party in favour of 'homelands'." [1]
  • In relation to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, critics of Israeli government policies have claimed that Israel seeks to implement a "bantustan model" for the Palestinian territories [2] [3] (See Allegations of Israeli apartheid for a fuller discussion of this controversial parallel.)
  • In Canada, one Ottawa Citizen newspaper editorial criticised the largely Inuit territory of Nunavut as being the country's "first Bantustan, an apartheid-style ethnic homeland." [4].
  • Controversial proposals put forward by Hawaii Senator Daniel Akaka have similarly been criticised as establishing a "bantustan" for Native Hawaiians.[5]
  • The increasing numbers of small states in the Balkans, following the breakup of Yugoslavia, have also been referred to as "bantustans".[6] [7]
  • The Sinhalese government of Sri Lanka has been accused of turning Tamil areas into "bantustans". [8]
  • The term has also been used to refer to Pakistan, [9] and to the living conditions of Dalits in India.[10]
  • The term has been used with regard to the sectarian policies adopted by the Protestant majority in Northern Ireland from 1920-1966.

[edit] References

  1. ^ Susan Mathieson and David Atwell, Between Ethnicitiy and Nationhood: Shaka Day and the Struggle over Zuluness in post-Apartheid South Africa in Multicultural States: Rethinking Difference and Identity edited by David Bennett ISBN 0-415-12159-0 (Routledge UK, 1998) p.122
  2. ^ "Bantustan plan for an apartheid Israel", The Guardian, London. 25 April 2004
  3. ^ The Myth of the Israeli Bantustan offer at Taba and other myths (
  4. ^ "The Mille Lacs Treaty Case is over, but don't stop fighting for what you believe in", Ottawa Citizen
  5. ^ "Hawaiians Want Race-Based Public Policy Too", Captain's Quarters, July 12, 2005
  6. ^ "The destabilisation of current "Bantustan" states either has the goal of creating a Balkan federation or the resurrection of Yugoslavia" Déjà vu?, The Center for Peace in the Balkans, August 2001. Accessed June 16, 2006.
  7. ^ "As a region where, during the last hundred years, all the modern political forms have been tried out, from empire to revolutionary republic, from multi-national federation to nation state to protectorate, a series repeated in the last century's decade as in an abridged, though not more successful edition, skipping revolutionary republic, while adding self-imposed bantustan." Mocnik, Rastko. Social change in the Balkans, Eurozine, March 20, 2003. Accessed June 16, 2006.
  8. ^ "The Tamil areas were on the one hand colonised, and on the other, by a policy of "benign neglect", turned into a backyard bantustan." Ponnambalam, Satchi. Sri Lanka : The National Question and the Tamil Liberation Struggle, Chapter 8.3, Zed Books Ltd, London, 1983.
  9. ^ "Our President should make the Americans realise that Pakistan is no Bantustan." Minhas, Moazzam Tahir. Prelude to China's containment, The Nation, July, 2005.
  10. ^ "Gaurav Apartments came up 15 years ago as the realisation of the dream of Ram Din Rajvanshi to carve out secure, dignified residential space for dalit families that can afford to buy a two or three-bedroom flat rather than as a "bantustan" for low-caste people." Devraj, Ranjit. Dalits create space for themselves, Asia Times Online, January 26, 2005.

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

Apartheid-era Bantustans in South Africa Flag of South Africa
Bophuthatswana | Ciskei | Gazankulu | KaNgwane | KwaNdebele | KwaZulu | Lebowa | QwaQwa | Transkei | Venda
Nominally independent Bantustans are in italics
Apartheid-era Bantustans in South-West Africa Flag of South Africa
Bushmanland | Damaraland | East Caprivi/Lozi | Hereroland | Kaokoland | Kavangoland | Namaland | Ovamboland | Rehoboth | Tswanaland
Bantustans that were given "self-government" are in italics.