Postage stamps commemorating the controversial independence of the Transkei region of South Africa in 1976.
The Transkei was made nominally independent in 1976 in order to serve as a legal homeland for millions of Xhosa-speaking black people who had lost their South African citizenship under the apartheid system of racial separation. However, upon the creation of a (nominally) independent Transkei in 1976, all black South Africans with language ties to Transkei (whether or not they lived there) lost their South African citizenship and became citizens of the new country. As a result, 1.6 million Xhosas living in the Transkei and a further 1.3 million non-Ciskei Xhosas living in South Africa lost their South African citizenship - something they had no say in as under the apartheid system, both racial and ethnic classification was ultimately decided upon by the apartheid government. Dual citizenship at birth was not permitted, and renunciation of one’s citizenship was legally possible, but rendered the individual stateless in most cases.
The Organization of African Unity urged the world to shun Transkei on the grounds that recognition would constitute acceptance of apartheid, and the United Nations supported its view.
On October 26th, 1976, the Transkei - a Xhosa region (known then as a Bantustan) that lay between Natal and the Kei River in the Eastern Cape - gained complete independence as an autonomous republic under the policy of separate development. 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”.
Furthermore, the Transkei could never be an economically self-sufficient nation as it would be financially dependent on the white South African government , and the majority of its citizens would have to migrate into South Africa to find work.
At its opening session the Transkei National Assembly elected Paramount Chief Botha J. Sigcau as the Transkei’s first President and Kaizer Matanzima as Prime Minister. The new republic did not incorporate the apartheid ideology into its constitution, but became a multiracial state in which all citizens had the franchise.
The Republic of Transkei was not recognised beyond South African borders. The General Assembly of the United Nations rejected the declaration of independence as invalid, and called upon all governments to deny any form of recognition of the Transkei and other Bantustans as a direct result of the ANC’s condemnation of the state as a means to reaffirm apartheid policies of separate development.
In 1994, following the dismantling of the apartheid regime, the Transkei was incorporated into the Eastern Cape province.
(sources 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)