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TRC Final Report

Page Number (Original) 400

Paragraph Numbers 1 to 10

Volume 2

Chapter 5

Subsection 1

Volume TWO Chapter FIVE

The Homelands1 from 1960 to 1990


1 This section focuses on the security forces operating in the former independent and self-governing homelands and their role in South Africa’s overall security strategy. The homelands security forces did not enjoy complete autonomy within the boundaries of homeland territories. They often worked alongside members of the South African security forces. Frequently, the South African security forces carried out both public and covert operations in the homelands, independently of the homeland security forces.

2 The Commission’s work on the former homelands was constrained by a number of factors. The Commission deployed teams of statement-takers to the homeland areas. However, owing to the primarily rural nature of the homelands and the logistics of statement-taking, not every area could be canvassed. Much of the evidence gathered from former homelands is documented in the relevant regional profiles (see Volume Three).

3 The Commission received a substantial submission on the former homelands prepared by Roger Southall and Geoff Wood.2 The submission focused principally on the two Eastern Cape homelands, namely the Ciskei and the Transkei, and has been used in compiling this chapter. The full submission is available in the Commission’s archives.

4 This chapter presents an overview of the development of security forces in the former homelands. It goes on to outline developments in the independent territories of Transkei and Ciskei and in the self-governing territory of KwaZulu. For the purposes of this chapter, the KwaZulu government, the KwaZulu Police (KZP) and the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), formerly the Inkatha Cultural Liberation Movement, are examined together, based on the argument that they were seen and treated as mutually indistinguishable in the period of the Commission’s mandate. Lastly, this chapter examines the development of vigilante groups and their activities in the self-governing territory of KwaNdebele.

1 The terms “homeland” and “independent homeland” are used throughout this section for the sake of convenience; the terms ‘territories’ and ‘states’ have also been used. The terms applied to these entities by the South African government have changed over time: According to the South African Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR) they were initially called ‘African Reserves’, then ‘homelands’ in the 1960s and ‘Black States’ from 1978 (SAIRR, 1948-79). The term ‘bantustan’ has also been in common usage. 2 Roger Southall & Geoffrey Wood, ‘Control and Contestation: State Security in South Africa’s Homelands.’ A report to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, 1988.



5 The homelands system lay at the heart of the National Party (NP) government’s policy of territorial and political separation based on race. Long before the NP’s election victory in 1948, legislation had been enacted to lay the groundwork for the development of the homelands. This included the 1913 and 1936 Land Acts. The Bantu Authorities Act was passed in the early 1950s, increasing the powers of traditional authorities in preparation for self-governance, and in 1959, the Promotion of Bantu Self-Government Act provided the legislative basis for the future homelands. Based on the notion that South Africa’s indigenous population was composed of eight (later, ten) African national groups, the architects of apartheid proposed that each group be given the opportunity to advance to higher forms of self-government until independence for each could eventually be realised.

6 From their creation, the homelands proved to be an emotional and highly charged issue. By and large, opinion on the subject was divided between those who generally supported the homelands project and those who opposed it. In the former group, NP politicians portrayed the homelands as a moral response to South Africa’s ‘multi-national’ reality. Apartheid theorists believed that South Africa was a country containing a number of nations, each developed to a greater or lesser degree. Freedom, they posited, could be realised only by providing the opportunity for each of these nations to exist and develop along its own lines. To achieve this, the South African government initiated the programme of ‘separate development’. Proponents of the policy envisioned the creation, under white tutelage, of a number of independent but mutually supportive African states. Theoretically, the homeland system was designed to realise this vision.

7 Support for the homelands was not limited to South Africa’s enfranchised white minority. Some Africans, especially members of the rural elite, also lent their authority to the system. Those who participated in the established structures did so for a variety of reasons. Some sought political or economic gain; others truly believed in the stated goals of traditional rule or national development. Still others argued that they participated in the system only to work for change from within.

8 Arguments against the homeland system were based on different philosophical and political beliefs, although a number of common threads run through the various critiques. First, some observers outside of the NP believed that economic constraints would inhibit the potential for the full realisation of the homeland concept. Second, many South Africans rejected the apartheid notion that ethnic ties naturally separated the country’s population into different nations. This school of thought regarded the homelands as an extension of the central government’s policy of ‘divide and rule’. Finally, more radical analyses concluded that the homelands were being used as vast dumping grounds where labour superfluous to the (white) capitalist economy could be effectively contained and controlled.

9 Rural resistance to the creation of homelands, in particular the imposition of tribal authorities and of betterment and rehabilitation schemes, increased during the 1950s. Clashes between police and protesters resulted, notably at Witsieshoek in the Orange Free State in 1950 and at Sekhukhuneland in the eastern Transvaal in 1958. By 1960, opposition in rural Transkei had culminated in the Pondoland Revolt (see below).

10 The arguments for and against the homelands and the pre-1960 political developments that contributed to their establishment are not the focus of this chapter. Rather, the chapter seeks to highlight the role of various homeland security forces in the violation of human rights.

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