The Bantustans or homelands, established by the Apartheid Government, were areas to which the majority of the Blacks population was moved to prevent them from living in the urban areas of South Africa. The Bantustans were a major administrative mechanism for the removal of Blacks from the South African political system under the many laws and policies created by Apartheid. The idea was to separate Blacks from the Whites, and give Blacks the responsibility of running their own independent governments, thus denying them protection and any remaining rights a Black could have in South Africa. In other words, Bantustans were established for the permanent removal of the Black population in White South Africa.
Segregation took place throughout the history of South Africa during the Apartheid era. Segregation was defined as the imposed separation of groups; the practice of keeping ethnic, racial, religious, or gender groups separate. The homelands started around the mid twentieth century, and ended in the late twentieth century, around the mid 1990s. The term that was used consistently was “White South Africa” as the Government aimed to move every Black person to his or her respective ethnic homeland in order to have South Africa completely in the hands of the White population. Blacks were given homelands, and that meant that whatever their culture was, they had to go to the given homeland.
For example, if a Black man or woman was of Zulu origin, they were assigned to go to KwaZulu, the Bantustan designated for Zulus. In total, ten homelands were created in South Africa. These were the Transkei, Bophuthatswana, Ciskei, Venda, Gazankulu, KaNgwane, KwaNdebele, KwaZulu, Lebowa, and QwaQwa. The homelands were designed for specific ethnic groups. For example, two homelands of Ciskei and Transkei were created only for the Xhosa people, while Bophuthatswana was created only for the Tswana people, KwaZulu was only for Zulu people, Lebowa for the Pedi and Northern Ndebele, Venda only for Vendas, Gazankulu was for Shangaan and Tsonga people and Qwa Qwa was for Basothos.
The Apartheid government made it legal for Blacks to become citizens of their independent Bantustans. The Bantu Homelands Citizenship Act of 1970 was passed, which allowed Blacks living throughout South Africa as legal citizens in the homeland designated for their particular ethnic group. The Act did not give Blacks South African citizenship or civil and political rights. Blacks had rights in their “Homelands,” but they were not completely independent. Other laws included the Bantu Authority Act, Act 68 of 1951, which provided for the establishment of Black homelands and regional authorities, with the aim of creating greater self-government, and the Promotion of Bantu Self-Government Act, Act 46 of 1959, which separated Black people into different ethnic groups. Each group had a Commissioner-General who was tasked to develop a homeland, which would be allowed to govern itself independently without White intervention.
In the 1970s, the South African government declared four of the Bantustans “independent”. These were the Transkei in 1976, Bophuthatswana in 1977, Venda in 1979, and Ciskei in 1981. The remaining Bantustans remained self-governing, but had no independent rights. Bantustans were to become independent from South Africa. This was a strategy to push all Blacks out and have them isolated from South Africa. It meant that Blacks would have to support themselves in these areas.
The local homeland economies were not developed. Bantustans relied almost entirely on White South Africa’s economy. Farming was not very viable largely because of the poor agricultural land in the homelands. In addition, Blacks owned only thirteen percent of South Africa’s land. These farm lands were in a poor condition because of soil erosion, and over grazing. As a result, millions of Blacks had to leave the Bantustans daily and work in the mines, for White farmers and other industries in the cities. The homelands served as labour reservoirs, housing the unemployed and releasing them when their labour was needed in White South Africa.
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.
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