The granting of independence to Ciskei

On the fourth of December 1981, Ciskei was granted independence.

Ciskei which means “on this side of the Kei River’ was granted independence by the South African government in 1981, following a referendum conducted by Lennox Sebe, leader of the Ciskei National Independence Party (CNIP).

Under South Africa’s policy of Apartheid, land was set aside for black peoples in self-governing territories. The homelands system lay at the heart of the National Party (NP) government’s policy of territorial and political separation based on race. The Bantu Authorities Act was passed in the early 1950s, increasing the powers of traditional authorities in preparation for self-governance, and in 1959, the Promotion of Bantu Self-Government Act provided the legislative basis for the future homelands. The government argued that Africans could develop as a nation better if they were settled in their tribal home lands.

(20 Feb 1980) Homeland leader Chief Lennox Sebe rejected a South African plan for “independence” for his Ciskeian people on Wednesday, (13 February), unless they were allowed to keep South African citizenship in this clip;

Ciskei was designated as one of two homelands or “Bantustans” for Xhosa speaking people.  Ngqika (Rharhabe) Xhosa people were resettled in the Ciskei, and Gcaleka Xhosa were settled in the  Transkei, the other Xhosa homeland.       It was the largest un-segmented Bantustan, in south Eastern Cape Province (currently the Eastern Cape) with a succession of capitals during its existence. Originally, Zwelitsha served as the capital with the view that Alice would become the long-term national capital. However, it was Bisho  (now spelled Bhisho) that became the capital until Ciskei’s reintegration into South Africa.

After the granting of independence, Sebe was elected “President for Life” of the new “state.” The Sebe regime rapidly became notable as one of the most repressive of the Bantustan governments. It is believed by some that Sebe never enjoyed any degree of popular support. However, some residents of the Ciskei during his time did support his traditional type of rule and recall how he used to slaughter a beast at the end of every month. He is also credited for building and developing Bisho. It was not until 1989 that open opposition to his government gained momentum. On the 15th of December 1993 the South African Parliament voted to restore citizenship to residents of the so called independent states. As the political situation in South Africa improved in 1990, residents of Ciskei began to agitate for similar reforms. The South African Homelands or Bantustans ceased to exist on 27 April 1994, and were re-incorporated into the new nine provinces of a democratic South Africa.



‘The Homelands.’