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Xhosa English

Chief J. T. Mabandla

9,000 km²

Date dissolved

Political structure



Bantustan, Republic

Ciskei httpsuploadwikimediaorgwikipediacommonscc

Lennox Leslie Wongamu Sebe

Lennox Leslie Wongamu Sebe

Brigadier General Oupa Gqozo

Ciskei (/sɪsˈk/ or /sɪsˈk/) was a nominally independent state – a Bantustan – in the south east of South Africa. It covered an area of 7,700 square kilometres (3,000 sq mi), almost entirely surrounded by what was then the Cape Province, and possessed a small coastline along the shore of the Indian Ocean.


Ciskei Ciskei Stamps and postal history StampWorldHistory

Under South Africa's policy of apartheid, land was set aside for black peoples in self-governing territories. 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.

Ciskei Ciskei Wikipedia

Ciskei had 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.

Ciskei Ciskei Wikipedia

The name Ciskei means "on this side of the Kei River", and is in contrast to the neighbouring Bantustan of Transkei.

Ciskei License Plates of Ciskei


Ciskei South African Homelands

By the time Sir John Cradock was appointed governor of the Cape Colony in 1811, the Zuurveld region had lapsed into disorder and many white farmers had begun to abandon their farms. Early during 1812, on the instructions of the governor, Lieutenant-Colonel John Graham forced 20,000 Xhosa to cross the Fish River. Subsequently, 27 military posts were erected across this border, which resulted in the establishment of the garrison towns of Grahamstown and Cradock.

At the end of the 19th century, the area known as British Kaffraria between the Fish and Kei rivers had been set aside for the "Bantu" and was from then on known as the Ciskei. Europeans gave the name Ciskei to the area to distinguish it from the Transkei, the area north of the Kei.

After the Union of South Africa formed in 1910, the "Bantu" rights of occupation remained unclear and differed from colony to colony within South Africa. The Native Lands Act of 1913 demarcated the reserves in the Union, and made it illegal to sell or lease these lands to Europeans (except in the Cape Colony). General Hertzog pursued his segregation policy and subsequently passed the Native Trust and Land Act in 1936. This act effectively abolished the right of the Cape "Bantu" to buy land outside of the existing reserves.


In 1961 Ciskei became a separate administrative region and in 1972 was declared self-governing under the rule of Chief Justice Mabandla and then Lennox Sebe. In 1978 it became a single-party state under the rule of Lennox Sebe, and after an independence referendum in 1980, in 1981 it became the fourth homeland to be declared independent by the South African government and its residents lost their South African citizenship. However, there were no border controls between South Africa and Ciskei. In common with other Bantustans its independence was not recognised by the international community. Sebe once claimed that the State of Israel had granted official recognition to Ciskei, but the Israeli Foreign Ministry denied this.

Coup d'état

In 1990 Brigadier Oupa Gqozo deposed Sebe and ruled as a dictator – despite an initial promise of a swift return to civilian rule. During 1991 and 1992 many of the legal foundations of apartheid in South Africa were removed, undermining the rationale for the homelands' continued existence. The African National Congress pressed strongly for them to be reincorporated into South Africa. This was opposed by Gqozo and the other homeland leaders.

Bisho massacre

On 7 September 1992 the Ciskei Defence Force fired into a crowd (led by Ronnie Kasrils) of ANC members demanding the removal of Gqozo. 28 people were killed and hundreds injured in the Bisho massacre outside the sports stadium in Bisho, the small capital of Ciskei.


Gqozo refused to participate in the multiracial negotiations to agree a post-apartheid constitution for South Africa and initially threatened to boycott the first multiracial elections. This became unsustainable and in March 1994 Ciskei government workers went on strike for fear of losing their job security and pensions in the post-apartheid era. The police then mutinied, prompting Gqozo to resign on 22 March. The South African government took control of the homeland to ensure security until the elections could be held the following month.

Ciskei and all of the other homelands were reincorporated into South Africa on 27 April 1994, after the first post-apartheid elections. Along with Transkei, Ciskei became part of the new Eastern Cape Province, with its capital becoming the capital of the new province.

Districts in 1991

Districts of the province and population at the 1991 census.

  • Alice: 43,452
  • Whittlesea: 50,199
  • Keiskammahoek: 32,740
  • Mdantsane: 105,117
  • Middledrift: 37,979
  • Peddie: 52,245
  • Zwelitsha: 142,779
  • Mpofu: 13,056
  • Law enforcement and Defence

  • Founded in 1981 the Ciskei Defence Force consisted of two battalions and an Air-wing.
  • Ciskei Police
  • Ciskei Police - Law Enforcement Division
  • Ciskei Prisons Service
  • Ciskei Traffic Force
  • Books on Ciskei

  • Mager, A.K. (1999) Gender and the Making of a South African Bantustan: A Social History of the Ciskei, 1945–1959, Heinemann.
  • Switzer, L. (1993) Power and Resistance in an African Society: The Ciskei Xhosa and the Making of South Africa, University of Wisconsin Press.
  • References

    Ciskei Wikipedia

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