Republic of Transkei
Flag of Transkei
Coat of arms of Transkei
Motto: Unity is Strength
Anthem: Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika
Location of Transkei (RSA-SWM)
Capital Umtata
Official languages Xhosa
Other languages English, Afrikaans, Sesotho
Government Parliamentary republic
• Chief Minister
Bonginkosi Mantyi
Legislature Parliament
• Self-government
30 May 1963
• Independence
30 May 2005
Currency South African Rand (ZAR)

The Republic of Transkei ("Transkei" meaning the area beyond [the river] Kei) or informally Transkei (Xhosa: iRiphabliki yeTranskei), is a parliamentary democracy in southeastern South Africa. Transkei was established on 30 May 1963 as a self-governing territory of the Republic of South Africa. A Bantustan, Transkei is one of the many territories set aside for members of a specific ethnicity as part of South Africa's Separate Development (Apartheid) policy. Today, Transkei is one of the four "former" Bantustans which achieved alleged full independence from South Africa, however, it is well known that Transkei is a puppet state for Pretoria. Its capital is located in Umtata.



The South African government set up the area as one of the two homelands for Xhosa-speaking people, the other being Ciskei; it was given nominal autonomy in 1963. Although the first election was contested and won by the Democratic Party, whose founder Chief Victor Poto was opposed to the notion of Bantustan independence, the government was formed by the Transkei National Independence Party. Of the 109 members in the regional parliament, only 45 were elected; the remaining seats held by ex officio chiefs. The entity became a nominally independent state in 1976 with its capital at Umtata, although it was recognized only by South Africa and later by the other nominally independent republics within the Homeland-system. Chief Kaiser Daliwonga Matanzima became its first head of government until 1978, when he assumed the office of president, a position he held until 1987.

International reaction

South African Prime Minister B.J. Vorster justified the declaration of Transkei as an independent republic by referring to "the right of every people to have full control over its own affairs" and wished "Transkei and its leaders God's richest blessings on the road ahead." A press release by the African National Congress at the time rejected the Transkei's independence and condemned it as "designed to consolidate the inhuman policies of apartheid". During its thirty-first session, in resolution A/RES/31/6 A, the General Assembly of the United Nations referred to Transkei's "sham independence" as "invalid," re-iterated its labeling of South Africa as a "racist régime," and called upon "all [g]overnments to deny any form of recognition to the so-called independent Transkei."

An article published in Time Magazine opined that though Transkei declared independence theoretically as a "free Black state", Matanzima ruled as the dictator of a one-party state. He banned local opposition parties and bought farmlands for himself and his family offered by the South African government at subsidized prices. Matanzima published Independence my Way in 1976, a book in which he argued that true liberation could only be gained through a confederation of black states; he described Transkei as a positive precedent and maintained that the liberation struggle chosen by the ANC would not be successful. The United Nations Security Council supported moves not to recognize Transkei, and in Resolution 402 (1976) condemned moves by South Africa to pressure Lesotho to recognize Transkei by closing its borders with the country.

Troubled existence

Throughout its existence, Transkei's economy remained dependent on that of its larger neighbor, with the local population being recruited as workers into South Africa's Rand mines. Because of a territorial dispute, Matanzima announced on 10 April 1978 that Transkei would break all diplomatic ties with South Africa, including a unilateral withdrawal from the non-aggression pact between the two governments, and ordered that all South African Defense Force members seconded to the Transkei Army should leave. This created the unique situation of a country refusing to deal with the only internationally recognized nation it was recognized by. Matanzima soon backed down in the face of Transkei's dependence on South African economic aid.

During his reign, Matanzima arrested state officials and journalists at will; in late 1979, he detained the head of the newly formed Democratic Progressive Party, Sabata Dalindyebo, king of the Thembu people and vocal opponent of apartheid, for violating the dignity and injuring the reputation of the president. Dalindyebo went into exile in Zambia, a move that marked the end of official opposition politics in Transkei, and in the 1981 election, the ruling Transkei National Independence Party was re-elected, gaining 100% of all open seats. In 1987, there was a coup d'état led by General Bantu Holomisa, the then-leader of the Transkei Defense Force, the homeland's officially sanctioned military units. Though both the South African government and the government of Transkei denied rumors of such a coup, Holomisa became the Head of State, and the Transkei was from that point onward effectively in (often uneasy) alliance with the African National Congress and provided a relatively safe area for the ANC's activities.

In 1990, Holomisa himself evaded a failed attempt to be ousted from his post, and when asked about the fate of his opponents, he claimed that they had died in the ensuing battles with TDF soldiers. It was later found that those deemed responsible for the foiled coup had only suffered minor injuries, but were subsequently executed without trial.

Recent history

The reformer F.W. De Klerk's moves to fully democratize South Africa and dismantle Apartheid between 1990 and 1994 were met with fierce opposition from elements within the Transkei elite. Officials in high government posts feared they would be reincorporated into South Africa and thus lose the power they had. Thus, when the Conservative Party announced plans to oppose the reform in any way possible, Transkei and many of the other homelands joined the opposition.

When the reform was successfully halted and the Conservative Party brought to power, Conservative leaders promised several homelands which supported it full political independence from South Africa. These processes started in late 1996 and finally in 2005, Transkei was for all intents and purposes, officially independent. Although the United Nations and the majority of other nations do not recognize Transkei, many African and smaller states have begun to establish diplomatic ties.

Bonginkosi Mantyi was elected as Chief Minister of Transkei by the unicameral Parliament in July 2005 and has held onto power ever since.