Transkei

Fighting related to Transkei Independence breaks out in Umtata, December, 1976. Source: Photograph by Chris Van der Merwe © BAHAFighting related to Transkei Independence breaks out in Umtata, December, 1976. Source: Photograph by Chris Van der Merwe © BAHA

An early history of the Transkei area

Originally the Transkei included the territories of Idutywa Reserve, Fingoland (Mfenguland) and Galekaland (Gcalekaland). Following their annexation they were restructured into the divisions of Butterworth, Tsomo and Nqamakwe for Fingoland; Kentani and Willowvale for Galekaland; and Idutywa for the Idutywa Reserve.

The alienation of Xhosa ancestral lands began during the 1770s when the Dutch annexed the border areas between the Gamtoos and Bushman's Rivers and began a gradual process of agrarian settlement that misrepresented indigenous concepts of land ownership. These incursions began to take on a more military aspect after the British annexation of the Cape Colony in 1806.

After the annexation the eastern frontier of the Cape became the arena for a series of increasingly bitter land wars. In 1811 and 1812 the British expelled the Xhosa people from the Zuurveld and annexed it to the Cape as the District of Albany. Following further clashes in 1818 and 1819 a highly contentious meeting was held on 14 October 1819 between the Cape Governor, Lord Charles Somerset, and Ngqika, paramount Chief of the amaRharhab. They concluded a verbal treaty which left the Xhosa no alternative but to yield the fertile region between the Great Fish and the Keiskamma Rivers. Initially this was known as the Neutral Territory, but in time it began to be referred to as the Ceded Territory and was settled by European farmers and their Khoikhoi allies.

In 1829 the area was annexed to the Cape and in 1833 amendments were made to its border, sparking off the frontier war of 1834 and 1835. On 21 December 1834 the Xhosa attacked the eastern regions of the Cape, and swept, virtually unchecked across the districts of Victoria and Albany, reaching the Sunday's River, near Uitenhage and Port Elizabeth. The Xhosa were, however, not interested in the re-occupation of their former territories so much as in the return of captured cattle to their lands over the Keiskamma River. Consequently, in January 1835, they began to fall back with he British on their heels.

On 31 March 1835 the British invaded Xhosa territory east of the Keiskamma River and on 10 May Governor D'Urban extended the colonial boundaries to the Great Kei River. On 16 June this area was proclaimed the Province of Queen Adelaide. The two parties concluded peace treaties on 17 September 1835 whereby the amaNgqika, amaNdlambe and amaGqunukhwebe were allotted specific territories within the province. They still gave over the greater part of their lands to the Cape Colony for European occupation. This included a strip of Gcaleka land east of the Great Kei River around Kei Drift and Butterworth.

The Colonial Office in London did not support these developments, and on 5 December 1836 the proclamation of the Province, as well as all treaties arising from it, were declared null and void, and the eastern frontier was returned to the Keiskamma River. Following the frontier war from 1846 to 1848, better known as the War of the Axe, the Ceded Territory was proclaimed the Division of Victoria on 23 December 1847, and on the same day the proclamation of British Kaffraria pushed the Cape-Xhosa boundary line to the Great Kei River, thereby returning it to its position in 1836.

This was extended in 1848 by the annexation of additional territory between the White Kei and Black Kei Rivers, later to become the Division of Queenstown. In December 1850 the amaNgqika rose in revolt. They were defeated in 1853 and a complex re-allocation of lands with "friendly" groups being allocated land in British Kaffraria while rebel clans were banished east of the Kei River, was initiated.

European settlement of this region was stepped up in 1857 with the arrival of German and British groups. In 1857 the so-called "cattle killing" led to the starvation, and ultimate death of some 70 000 Xhosa people. In a brief period of 6 months their numbers were reduced from 105 000 to 37 200 persons. This effectively brought their armed resistance to European colonialism in the eastern Cape to an end. Barring a brief revolt in 1877 and 1878, when the amaGcaleka turned upon their amaMfengu neighbours, the British annexation of lands east of the Kei River was able to proceed unimpeded.

In 1866 British Kaffraria was annexed to the Cape Colony. In September 1879 this was followed by Idutywa Reserve and Mfenguland, and Gcalekaland in 1885. It is assumed that the restructuring of these territories into the divisions of Butterworth, Idutywa, Kentani, Nqamakwe, Tsomo and Willowvale dates from these times.

While the official annexation of territory was proceeding, the European population of lands north of the Great Kei River was growing rapidly. By the mid-1880's they numbered nearly 10 000 and in 1882 White farmers were beginning to settle illegally in Emigrant Thembuland, Thembuland Proper and parts of the Gatberg district of Griqualand East, later known as the Division of Maclear, which had become depopulated as the result of the frontier wars. European settlement was further assisted by the Thembu chief Ngangelizwe who opened up Maxongo's Hoek, in the Division of Slang River, to White farmers. In 1882 he also sold land in the district of Umtata for White use.

Other European settlers were purchasing land in the districts of the Indwe River, Kokstad and Matatiele, while tracts of land in Galekaland were surveyed for White ownership. The following census figures are available for the territory:

DIVISION                               pop 1891         lit'cy            pop 1904                    lit'cy

TRANSKEI, territory of .........  153 563            6 941           177 730                    18 582

Division of Butterworth ......     15 312              1 344           19 202                      2 810

Division of Idutywa ..........       25 707                573             27 593                     1 535

Division of Kentani ..........       29 026                483             34 238                     1 983

Division of Nqamakwe .........   30 442                2 550          34 234                     5 906

Division of Tsomo ............      16 663                968             20 034                     3 207

Division of Willowvale .......      36 413               1 023          42 429                     3 071

The Transkei homeland

The Transkei region was the scene of various attempts to establish segregated districts before the period of apartheid. The Glen Gray Act of 1894 saw the establishment of district councils under the leadership of chiefs. The idea of using chiefs as proxy rulers eventually became a cornerstone of the Bantustan policy of the apartheid government, announced in 1959.

Under the Bantu Authorities Act of 1951, the Transkei became, in 1959, the first region to be established as a Territorial Authority; and in 1963 it became the first Bantustan to be granted 'self-government'.

Kaiser Matanzima, appointed Chief of the AmaHala clan in 1940, supported and promoted the apartheid concept of separate development and played a crucial role in the politics of the homeland. Although chief of the AmaHala, his authority was subject to the overrule of the Paramount Chief of the Tembu, Sabata Dalindyebo, who opposed the Bantu Authorities system. Matanzima entered the Transkei Territorial Authority (known as the Bunga) in 1955, and grew to become the favourite of apartheid's social engineers. To bypass the authority of Dalindyebo, they appointed him Regional Chief of Emigrant Tembuland in 1958, and in 1966 consolidated the position by making him Paramount Chief of the Emigrant Tembu, thus making him Dalindyebo's equal.

The constitution of the Transkei, drawn up in Pretoria under the watchful eye of Prime Minister Hendrik Verwoerd, determined that the Transkei cabinet was to be elected by ballot in the Legislative Assembly. It would control the following portfolios: Justice, Finance, Education, the Interior, Agriculture and Forestry, and Roads and Works.

The Assembly comprised the four Paramount Chiefs of the Transkei, 60 chiefs from regional authorities, and 45 members who would be elected in general elections. Although most of those elected were supporters of Paramount Chiefs Sabata Dalindyebo of Tembuland and Victor Poto of Western Pondoland, Kaiser Matanzima held sway over the legislature through the support of chiefs aligned to him. Matanzima was thus appointed Chief Minister of the Transkei, a  'self-governing territory within the Republic of South Africa'.

In elections, held before the status of self-government was conferred in 1963, Matanzima's Transkeian National Independence Party (TNIP) was  defeated by the Democratic Party, which called for multiracialism, common South African citizenship and opposition to the Bantustan system. The DP won 33 of the 45 seats, but Matanzima received the support of 42 of the 58 government-appointed chiefs, and was appointed Chief Minister. Led by Knowledge Guzana, the DP lost its following over the next few years because of Matanzima's campaign to destroy the party in which members were often detained and banned.

When elections were held in1973, the TNIP won a majority of seats as well as votes, and Guzana was replaced in 1976 by Hector Ncokazi, who was influenced by the Black Consciousness Movement.

Matanzima's rule and the apartheid regime had been opposed by more radical forces long before this. In the early 1960s, the PAC's armed wing, Poqo, launched several attempts to assassinate Matanzima, all of which failed. But Poqo succeeded in killing one of Matanzima's advisors in October 1962. They also killed Tembu Chief GwebindalaMabuza in October and Chief MagezaDalasile in December.

Matanzima ran a brutal regime, and using the infamous Proclamation R400, neutralized all opposition through bannings and detentions. The proclamation had been put in place to deal with the intense rural resistance to apartheid in Pondoland in 1960.

Matanzima developed an effective working knowledge of the Bantu Authorities system, and agitated for independence. He mounted a vigorous campaign to promote his homeland, pressuring the government to have border districts incorporated into the Transkei, and in 1972 he pushed for the amalgamation of all Xhosa territory, including the Ciskei, under his leadership.

In 1976 Transkei became the first of the four homelands to be granted independence. Supported by the South African government, Matanzima managed to overshadow rivals such as Dalindyebo, despite the latter's greater support among the people in the area. Matanzima ruled the Transkei as Prime Minister, with his brother George occupying the position of Minister of Justice.

One of George Matanzima's first acts as Justice Minister was to detain John Kani and Winston Ntshona when they performed Athol Fugard's SizweBansi is Dead in Umtata. The actors were released following demonstrations in New York by well-known performers.

Despite his demands for more territory and his disputes with the South African government, Matanzima maintained power with the help of Pretoria and legislation modeled on the South African system.

Between April 1978 and April 1980, Matanzima engaged in a dispute over the status of Griqualand East, and broke off diplomatic ties with the apartheid government, and threatened an end to the 'non-aggression pact'. Weeks later, with its economy bankrupt, the homeland was forced to accept a bail-out of R73-million from the diplomatically alienated South African government.This grant was in addition to an annual grant of, R113,5-million for the 1979/80 financial year. Between 1978 and 1980 South African grants amounted to approximately R573-million.

Corruption in the homeland drastically depleted its funds and in 1980 the South African state assumed control over the homeland's budget.

When the Minister of Education, Stella Sigcau, was fired in 1979, a cabinet crisis ensued, and the opposition Progressive Democratic Party (DPP) was formed under the leadership of Dalindyebo, Matanzima's old rival. But Matanzima used his 'state powers' against his opponent. Trumped-up charges against Dalindyebo saw him convicted on a minor charge, but he was acquitted of the more serious charges. There was much public support for Dalindyebo, and the Transkei administration suffered great embarrassment. 

In 1980 most of the members of the opposition DPP were arrested, and some were banned. Dalindyebo fled and went into exile in Zambia, where he forged links with the ANC. He died in 1986.

However Matanzima's TNIP was also rocked by splits and divisions during 1979 and 1980. The party lost support in East Pondoland when the powerful Sigcau clan switched sides and allied with the DPP. Matanzima decided to appoint his brother George as Prime Minister, while he assumed the position of President.

George Matanzima's brutal attempts to centralise control resulted in a further disintegration of the tribal alliances his brother had painstakingly constructed. The entire ruling apparatus was wracked by crises. Heavy repressive measures saw many opposition leaders, former cabinet ministers and the head of the defence force and  police detained. The former Rhodesian Selous Scout General Ron Reid-Daly was appointed head of the Transkei Defence Force.

In 1985, Apartheid practitioners conceived  a plan to merge the Transkei and Ciskei and create a 'united nation of Xhosa speakers' who they thought would support the South African government and help it to stamp out unrest in the Eastern Cape. Matanzima had long held ambitions to rule  such a territory, and had opposed the 'independence' of Ciskei in 1981 in the hope that this merger would be realised. But the plan, which included having Ciskei's president, Lennox Sebe, assassinated, failed after it was leaked to General Bantu Holomisa.

Matanzima began to lose support by the mid-1980s, and  resigned in 1986, but he managed to retain his seat as Paramount Chief of Western Tembuland. He was succeeded as President by Paramount Chief Tutor Ngangelizwe Ndamase, the son of Chief Victor Poto of Western Pondoland. George Matanzima, who had been embroiled in disputes with his brother, was effectively sidelined, but the conflicts intensified and brought much turbulence to Transkeian politics in the period from 1986 to 1989.

Eventually, both Chief Victor Poto and George Matanzima were overthrown, amid charges of corruption in government departments. Others also lost their positions, including Reid-Daly, the head of the Transkeian Defence Force. He was replaced by General Zondwa Mtirara in April 1987.

With the army in crisis, George Matanzima fled the country in October 1987, but was subsequently apprehended and charged with misappropriation of funds. The TNIP chose Stella Sigcau to replace him as Prime Minister, but she was ousted when General Bantu Holomisa mounted a bloodless coup in January 1988. Holomisa ruled as chairperson of the Military Council.

Earlier, in April 1986, the son of the deceased Sabata Dalindyebo, Buyelekhaya, brought his father's body back to the Transkei to be buried at the Great Place. Matanzima had the body seized and buried in a pauper's grave. But Holomisa supported Buyelekhaya, encouraging him to return and take up his father's position as Paramount Chief of Thembuland. With the support of the Congress of traditional Leaders (Contralesa), Buyelekhaya returned in October 1989, and reburied his father's body in a public ceremony. Members of ANC-aligned anti-apartheid groupings, together with King Mswati II of Swaziland, were among those who attended the ceremony.

In the meanwhile, Holomisa took the step to unban the UDF and other anti-apartheid organisations in Transkeian territory, a move that could not be opposed by the newly inaugurated President of South Africa, F.W. de Klerk. Holomisa also announced that he would conduct a plebiscite to test whether Transkeians wanted their homeland to be reincorporated into South Africa.

All these events played out against a backdrop of economic failure and corruption. The homeland's leaders had never managed to develop an autonomous economy. Despite incentives to industrialists, Matanzima failed to persuade foreign firms to set up industrial plants in his territory. Only one bag factory was established in the early 1980s, and in the enterprises that were established, Transkeians were exploited in the workplace.

Most of the employed worked for the bureaucracy. A small consumer goods industry employed a total of 4050 people in 1975. Of the total of 47,000 waged workers in the Transkei in 1975, more than 20,000 were employees of the 'state'. More than 500,000 Transkeians were working in South Africa, remitting money to their families. These remittances made up 70% of the homeland's total GNP.

Like Bophuthatswana's Lucas Mangope, who secured lucrative deals with Hoteliers and casino owners such as Sol Kerzner, George Matanzima demanded and received R2-million from Kerzner so the latter could set up a gambling monopoly in the homeland.

A Commission of Enquiry appointed after George Matanzima fled the country established that between 1976 and  1988, R200-million had been misappropriated by the Matanzimas.

In November 1990, a group of six white and black soldiers attempted to mount a coup, but they failed when troops loyal to Holomisa overcame the plotters. Eighteen people were killed, including the leader of the coup, Colonel Craig Duli.

Under the new democratic dispensation in South Africa, the Transkei and all other homelands were incorporated into South Africa in 1994.

References

  • Chris Barron, Collected South African Obituaries, Penguin, 2005.
  • Davies R, O'Meara D, Dlamini S, The Struggle for South Africa: A Reference Guide to Movements, Organizations and Institutions, Volume One, Zed Press, 1984.
  • Howcroft, P. (unpublished encyclopedia, part of SAHO archive)
  • TRH Davenport, South Africa: A Modern History, Fourth Edition, McMillan, 1991.