Ciskei is the scene of the longest
large-scale association of Blacks with Whites in Africa
south of the Sahara. In 1702 Dutch settlers migrating
east from Cape Town met Ciskeian Xhosa Tribes near the
Great Fish River.
The Xhosas as well as the Dutch were pastoralists, and
stock thefts and boundary disputes resulted in nine
frontier wars between 1779 and 1878 -
in which the 1820 British Settlers were also involved.
Though Dutch Governor Van Plettenberg declared the Fish
River the boundary between the Dutch and the Xhosas
in 1788, the subsequent British rulers annexed the whole
of the present-day Ciskei.
During the 19th century the territory was fragmented
into Black reserves, military settlements, White farms
and White-controlled towns. The Ciskeian Chiefs lost
all their political and legal sovereignty and became
vassals of the British Colonial Government at the Cape
of Good Hope.
In 1913, after
the formation of the Union of South Africa the reserves
were declared inalienable. Provision was made for
partial consolidation in 1936, but it was not until
1975, when the Ciskeian Parliament negotiated an exchange
of land, that it became possible to consolidate the
territory into a single unit.
This A-shaped inland-pointing country of rolling green
hills and fertile river valleys is separated from
its semi-arid Hewu district on the
interior high-lying region by the striking, forest-clad
The Great Fish River forms the western boundary of
The Keiskamma runs like a blue ribbon down the centre,
while eastwards is the Buffalo River, the mouth of
which accommodates the port of East London in a tongue
of South African territory separating Ciskei from
On the coast is a forest-free low-land enjoying copious
rains, which is tailor-made for pineapple crops.
Continued in next column
plateau with large cattle herds and thousands of tiny
maize and sorghum fields constitutes the territory’s
traditional heartland and its developmental hub.
On the deeply-incised northern fringes
of this plateau, in the foothills of the Amatolas,
are a number of fertile river valleys, ideal for irrigation.
The ‘new country’
is a natural consequence of the South African policy
of political independence and economic interdependence
for the subcontinent’s various peoples that
has been evolved over the past 20 years.
Though there were abortive earlier efforts to grant
self-rule, the first real step towards independence
was taken in 1961 with the inauguration of a pyramidal,
chief-based form of government, with
tribal, regional and territorial authorities.
The first territorial authority only had executive
powers, but a Legislative Assembly was constituted
in 1972, and in 1973 Dr Sebe (1926 - 1994)
won the first one man one vote general election with
a 70 per cent plus poll.
During the 1973 - 78 period many
opposition members crossed the floor and in 1978 Sebe’s
Ciskei National Independence Party scored a landslide
By 1980 Ciskei had become a one-party state.
After studying the report of the prestigious, economically
orientated Quail Commission, Ciskei drew up a document
entitled Ciskei Independence within the RSA
and presented it to the Prime Minister of South Africa.
An important breakthrough was achieved in South African
politics when the Ciskeian and South African Governments
agreed to enter into a confederal agreement. The agreement
was to be signed concomitantly with the attainment
Bisho, the new capital, was at time under construction
on the outskirts of King King William’s Town.
Ciskei Booklet published by INTERSAPA (1979)