Bantustan or Bantustans is the name that was given to the tribal homelands of South African native black Africans by the white Apartheid rulers of the Republic of South Africa that were designated to become independent states under a grand plan called "Separate Development" which would have granted independence to blacks in these newly created tribal states. Bantu means "people" in the Bantu languages spoken in Southern Africa. There were to be about ten Bantustan-Homelands. These small, quasi-sovereign nations were established under the 1951 Bantu Authorities Act.
The founders and implementers of the Apartheid doctrine pushed the idea of Bantustans vigorously, but they never gained the recognition of the international community, and were mostly despised by South Africa's Blacks. They were unpopular because of a number of reasons:
- The boundaries of the Bantustans were drawn to exclude economically valuable land.
- The large number of reassigned citizens combined with the small area allocated to the Bantustans meant that the citizen to land ratio was severely disproportionate to that of South Africa.
- Becoming citizens of the new territories meant losing citizenship of South Africa, where the majority of candidates for reassignment of citizenship lived and worked. This would cause them to loose what few rights and privileges they had as citizens of South Africa.
The first Bantustan that became operational was the Transkei under the leadership of Chief Kaiser Matanzima in the Cape Province for the Xhosa nation. Perhaps the best known one was KwaZulu for the Zulu nation in Natal Province, headed by a member of the Zulu royal family Chief Gatsha Buthelezi in the name of the Zulu king.
In all there were ten Bantustans. Four of them were nominally independent (Bophuthatswana, the Ciskei, the Transkei and Venda). The other six had certain forms of self-government. These were: Gazankulu, KaNgwane, KwaNdebele, KwaZulu, Lebowa and QwaQwa.
Of note is also the way the borders for these territories were drawn. They were broken up into numerous enclaves, and the boundaries between these were very convoluted, in fact, the South African embassy to Bophuthatswana had to be moved because it turned out that it was accidentally built in South Africa.
With the demise of the Apartheid regime in South Africa and the end of exclusive White rule, the Bantustans were dismantled as the country was constitutionally redivided into new provincial governments.
The word Bantustan has become something of a pejorative when describing a country or region that lacks any real legitimacy or power, viewed as a form of national or international gerrymandering.
During the 1980s, these pseudonations, particularly the Transkei and Bophuthatswana, became centers for casino gambling, which was illegal at the time in South Africa. The Sun City mega-resort is a result of this.