The Oxford Biblical Studies Online and Oxford Islamic Studies Online have retired. Content you previously purchased on Oxford Biblical Studies Online or Oxford Islamic Studies Online has now moved to Oxford Reference, Oxford Handbooks Online, Oxford Scholarship Online, or What Everyone Needs to Know®. For information on how to continue to view articles visit the subscriber services page.

Related Content

Related Overviews


Hendrik Frensch Verwoerd (1901—1966) South African statesman, Prime Minister 1958–66


More Like This

Show all results sharing this subject:

  • History


Show Summary Details



Quick Reference

Separate Black homelands in South Africa whose creation from 1951 formed the cornerstone of apartheid as realized by the National Party and the relentless Verwoerd. They built on the existing ‘reserves’ for Blacks (Bantus), which had been established to segregate them from Whites in 1913 and in 1936. The 1951 Bantu Authorities Act set up a hierarchical structure of authority in each reserve, which corresponded to different ethnic groups. Tribal chiefs who did not cooperate were deposed. The 1959 Bantu Self‐Government Act provided mechanisms for these territories to achieve self‐government, which was granted in 1963 for the first time to the Transkei, the largest single homeland territory.

Thereafter, self‐governing homelands were encouraged to opt for independence, since the more Blacks belonged to an independent homeland, the fewer could claim South African nationality. Thus, the 1970 Bantu Homelands Citizenship Act ruled that all Blacks would assume the nationality of one of the homelands, even if they had never set foot in it. This would ensure that, in the long run, there would be no Black South Africans. Transkei accepted independence in 1976, followed by Bophuthatswana (1977), Venda (1979), and the Ciskei (1981). As creations of apartheid, these ‘countries’, whose territories were widely interspersed throughout the eastern part of South Africa, were not internationally recognized. With the notable exception of Bophuthatswana, their governments were corrupt, and their single most important ‘independent’ revenue came from the ability to run casinos, as gambling was forbidden in South Africa.

In reality, Bantustans were vast slum areas without industry or fertile soil for agriculture. The majority of their populations depended on jobs in South Africa (e.g. 65 per cent of the working population in Bophuthatswana), while most of their governments' income depended on direct transfer payments from the South African government (e.g. 80 per cent in Transkei, 1985). The ‘independent’ bantustans were reintegrated into South Africa in 1994, sometimes, as in the case of Bophuthatswana, against the will of the local governing elites.

Subjects: History

Reference entries