Bantustans and Ethnicity: The Crystallization and Fragmentation of the Transvaal Ndebele during and after Apartheid


African Humanities Program Postdoctoral Fellowships




This study uses both oral and archival evidence to examine the coming together of the Transvaal Ndebele in their quest for a separate homeland in the 1960s; the exclusion of the Northern Ndebele from KwaNdebele; and their incorporation into Lebowa and Bophuthatswana in the 1970s. It deals with the sudden demise of ethnic identification in the face of the intensification of the anti-apartheid struggle in the 1980s, and the rebirth of Northern Ndebele ethnic politics after apartheid. These developments are explored from the perspectives of the Northern Ndebele, whose history is grossly understudied and misunderstood. In apartheid South Africa, ethnicity was reified and elevated above other forms of identity besides race. Ethnicity was linked to state patronage, thus making it critical for Africans to identify themeselves as ethnic "citizens" in order to access limited political and economic resources.