Any of the ten territories set aside under South African apartheid for black South Africans on the remaining 14% of the country’s lands not reserved for Whites, and slated for eventual independence. The ten bantustans were also referred to as “homelands” and, formerly, as “native reserves” or “Black states.” The South African National Party created these administrative units under the white-dominated government’s apartheid policy. They were Gazankulu, KwaZulu, Lebowa, KwaNdebele, KaNgwane, Qwaqwa, Transkei, Bophuthatswana, Venda, and Ciskei. The last four were proclaimed independent—Transkei (1976), Bophuthatswana (1977), Venda (1979), and Ciskei (1981)—but no foreign government recognized them as independent states. Citizens of the Bantustans lost the limited rights they had as South Africans.
Although the creation of Bantustans was rooted in earlier legislation, the Bantu Homelands Citizenship Act (1970) defined blacks living throughout South Africa as legal citizens only of the homelands designated for their particular ethnic groups, thus stripping them of their South African citizenship. From the 1960s through the 1980s, the South African government continuously removed black people still living in “white areas” of South Africa and forcibly relocated them to the Bantustans. South African citizenship was restored to homeland residents, and the homelands were abolished under the South African Constitution that was approved in 1993 and ended apartheid. In 1994, after the end of apartheid, the South African government created nine new South African provinces, which included both former provinces and former Bantustans.
The term was first used in the late 1940s, and was coined from Bantu (meaning “people” in some of the Bantu group of African languages) and -stan (a suffix meaning “land” in the Sanskrit and Persian language). It was regarded as a disparaging term by critics of the apartheid-era government’s “homelands” (from Afrikaans tuisland). The word “bantustan,” today, is habitually used in a pejorative sense when describing a region that lacks any real legitimacy, or one that consists of discontiguous enclaves, and/or emerges from national or international gerrymandering. The Palestinian Authority jurisdictional areas “A” are sometimes referred to as bantustans by analogy to their South African apartheid counterparts.