Bantustans, also called black homelands or Bantu homelands, territories in South Africa from the 1950s until 1994 that were designated for the majority black population as part of the system of apartheid, the practice of separation of the races. In the 1950s the government of South Africa divided its black population according to ethnic groups or tribes and assigned them to separate regions which the government considered to be ethnic homelands. The terms bantustan or Bantu homeland originated from the fact that the different languages of these groups are all considered to be Bantu languages. The ten bantustans were Bophuthatswana, Ciskei, Gazankulu, KaNgwane, KwaNdebele, KwaZulu, Lebowa, Qwaqwa, Transkei, and Venda. Although four of the bantustans eventually gained nominal independence, they remained economically and politically dependent on the South African government. In April 1994 the first all-race elections were held in South Africa and an interim constitution went into effect. This constitution dissolved all ten bantustans and incorporated them into nine new South African provinces.

Shortly after the Union of South Africa was formed in 1910, the white leaders of South Africa began to implement national policies of racial segregation. The 1913 Natives Land Act set aside as native reserves a specific amount of land that could be owned and occupied by blacks. The territory included in the reserves amounted to only 7 percent of South Africa's total land; the Development Trust and Land Act of 1936 expanded that amount to 13 percent. These areas were later used as the basis for the establishment of the bantustans. Hendrik Verwoerd, who was minister of native affairs from 1950 to 1958 and then prime minister of South Africa between 1958 and 1966, initiated the bantustan policy in the early 1950s. The Bantu Authorities Act, passed in 1951 by the South African government, defined black ethnic groups. The government designated territories from the former native reserves for these groups and set up an administrative system for the territories. A territorial authority appointed by the South African government controlled each region. These authorities had jurisdiction over such matters as educational institutions, roads, and hospitals. The 1959 Promotion of Bantu Self-Government Act established the ethnic groups as so-called national units, each with its own homeland, that would develop separately from the rest of South Africa. All blacks were considered citizens of a bantustan, although they retained their South African citizenship.

In 1963 the Transkei Constitution Act provided for a legislative assembly and an executive council to administer the territory of Transkei. The Bantu Homelands Constitution Act of 1971 applied this form of self-government to all the bantustans. The South African president was given the power to establish constitutions and legislative assemblies for any of the bantustans. The Bantu Homelands Constitution Act also provided two stages that would lead up to supposed self-government for the bantustans. In the first stage, a territory acquired a homeland legislature and an executive council, both made up of the government-appointed members of the territorial authority. To achieve the second stage in this process, a general election had to be held for half of the seats in the new administrative body, with the other half reserved for chiefs. Once a bantustan had reached this point, it was considered to be self-governing. According to subsequent legal amendments, the governing body of a supposedly self-governing bantustan could collect taxes and pass laws relating to areas such as schools, hospitals, prisons, road transportation, and even police; but the bantustan's legislative power did not extend to foreign affairs, defense, communication services, or banking. All of the laws passed by the bantustan's government still required the approval of the South African president, and ultimate control over the bantustan's finances remained with the South African government.

Between 1971 and 1977 self-government was given to the homelands of Bophuthatswana, Ciskei, Gazankulu, KwaNdebele, KwaZulu, Lebowa, Qwaqwa, and Venda. KaNgwane received self-government in the early 1980s. Four of the bantustans asked for so-called independence, which they received on the following dates: Transkei in October 1976, Bophuthatswana in December 1977, Venda in September 1979, and Ciskei in December 1981. Once a bantustan received independence, all those who were considered citizens of that bantustan, even those living in other parts of South Africa, lost their South African citizenship.

Most of the bantustans consisted of multiple, disconnected fragments of land, and most of the land assigned to the bantustans was not suitable for farming. The economies of these territories, therefore, remained almost entirely dependent on South Africa. Because blacks were allowed only restricted residence outside the bantustans, many either commuted several hours each day to work outside the bantustans or became migrant laborers. The bantustan populations became concentrated in poor, overcrowded border communities within commuting distance of work in white-run industries outside the bantustans. The superficial independence of these bantustans was condemned by the United Nations (UN), and they were never recognized as independent countries by any government other than the South African government. The chief minister of the Zulu bantustan of KwaZulu, Mangosuthu Buthelezi, rejected independence and advocated majority rule for all of South Africa. In 1983 Buthelezi and the chief ministers of Lebowa and KaNgwane declared that they would never accept independence from South Africa.

As the system of apartheid began to disintegrate during the second half of the 1980s, the future of the bantustans came increasingly into question. In 1986 a draft law was presented to the South African parliament to restore South African citizenship to the people of the four independent bantustans. One month later, however, the government declared that only those citizens of the independent bantustans who were living outside the bantustans would regain their South African citizenship. In May 1990 the South African government announced that it had abandoned plans to grant independence to the remaining six self-governing bantustans. The African National Congress (ANC), a political organization that was actively engaged in opposition to apartheid, advocated the total dismantling of the bantustan system. A few bantustan leaders feared the loss of their own political power if the bantustans were dissolved, but most citizens of the bantustans supported the ANC's position. In 1994 the bantustans were officially reincorporated into South Africa under the new government led by the ANC. The citizens of the former bantustans became full citizens of South Africa.


"Bantustans," Microsoft® Encarta® Online Encyclopedia 2000 © 1997-2000 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.


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