From Academic Kids

Bantustan refers to any of the territories designated as tribal "homelands" for black South Africans during the Apartheid era. The term "bantustan" was first used in the late 1940s and was coined from Bantu (meaning "people" in the Bantu languages) and -stan (meaning "land of"), and was based on Hindustan. It later became a disparaging term used by critics of the Apartheid-era government's "homelands".

These homelands were allocated to blacks by the white Apartheid government of the Republic of South Africa and were designated to become independent states under a plan called "Separate Development". This plan would have given independence to blacks in these newly created tribal states, while stripping them of their South African citizenship, leaving whites as the majority in South Africa. Originally, there were to be about ten Bantustan-Homelands. These small, quasi-sovereign regions were established under the 1951 Bantu Authorities Act. Their status was formalized in 1959 by the Promotion of Black Self-Government Act, and the process was completed by the National States Citizenship Act of 1970, which forcibly made blacks citizens of Bantustans and cancelled their South African citizenship. The Bantustans began to be given "independence" in 1976.

The founders and implementers of the Apartheid doctrine pushed the idea of Bantustans vigorously, but they never gained the recognition of the international community, and were mostly despised by South Africa's blacks. They were unpopular because of a number of reasons:

  • The boundaries of the Bantustans were drawn to exclude economically valuable land. Few employment opportunities were available in the Bantustans.
  • The large number of reassigned citizens combined with the small area allocated to the Bantustans meant that the citizen to land ratio was severely disproportionate to that of South Africa as a whole.
  • Becoming citizens of the new territories meant losing citizenship of South Africa, where the majority of candidates for reassignment of citizenship lived and worked. This would cause them to lose what few rights and privileges they had as citizens of South Africa.

The white government had exempted 13% of its territory from white settlement, and transformed this fraction into regions of black home-rule. Then they tried to bestow independence on these regions (the "homelands"), claiming that the other 87% was white territory. The black South Africans were divided (often arbitrarily) into ethnic groups which were assigned certain homelands. The motivation for the establishment of these states was to take away the few rights that black South Africans had in South Africa, by making them nationals of the homelands. In the majority of these transfers of citizenship, the individuals assigned to homelands did not live in or originate from the small areas which the homelands encompassed.

The first Bantustan that became operational 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.

Another well known Bantustan was Bophuthatswana of the Tswana people, headed by Chief Lucas Mangope. (Not to be confused with Botswana, the former Bechuanaland that was established by Britain.)

In all there were ten Bantustans. Four of them were nominally independent (the so-called TVBC states of Bophuthatswana, the Ciskei, the Transkei and Venda). The other six had certain forms of self-government. These were: Gazankulu, KaNgwane, KwaNdebele, KwaZulu, Lebowa and QwaQwa.

Of note is also the way the borders for these territories were drawn. They were broken up into numerous enclaves, and the boundaries between these were very convoluted, in fact, the South African embassy to Bophuthatswana had to be moved because it turned out that it was accidentally built in South Africa.

Lesotho and Swaziland were not bantustans, but are internationally recognized independent countries, and are former British possessions.

A total of around 12 million people lived in (or more accurately, were citizens of) the Bantustans. Another 11 million blacks lived in South Africa proper, though the ultimate intention of the Apartheid governments was that all blacks should be moved to Bantustans with no permanent black residents after the plan was fully implemented. In practice, though, millions of Bantustan citizens worked in South Africa proper - the lack of economic opportunities in the Bantustans required them to work away from home, often for months at a time, in other parts of South Africa.

With the demise of the Apartheid regime in South Africa and the end of exclusive white rule, the Bantustans were dismantled as the country was constitutionally redivided into new provincial governments.

The word Bantustan has become something of a pejorative when describing a country or region that lacks any real legitimacy or power, viewed as a form of national or international gerrymandering. It has been used particularly with reference to Israeli policies towards the Palestinian populations of the Gaza Strip and West Bank.

During the 1980s, these pseudonations, particularly the Transkei and Bophuthatswana, became centers for casino gambling, which was illegal at the time in South Africa. The Sun City mega-resort and others in the Bantustans are the results of this. These resorts were destinations where the white minority went to participate in entertainments that were considered 'immoral' in South Africa.

See Also: Bantustans in South West Africa

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