• Bargaining with Land: Borders, Bantustans, and Sovereignty in 1970s and 1980s Southern Africa

    John Aerni-Flessner (see profile) , Chitja Twala
    African History, Global & Transnational Studies
    Africa, History, Borderlands, Sovereignty, International relations
    Item Type:
    Lesotho, south africa, Apartheid, Borderlands, Bantustans, African history, Border studies
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    ‘Independence’ for bantustans was universally rejected by the international community in the late 1970s and early 1980s. How the status of Lesotho and Swaziland as internationally recognised states deeply embedded in South Africa’s economic and political orbit differed from that of the bantustans was clear in some cases, murky in others. The apartheid regime floated many ideas of land transfer in an attempt to force these states to recognise the bantustan system and, by extension, the legitimacy of apartheid. While some of these proposed transfers were non-starters, the fact that the apartheid regime did transfer land from South African ownership to the bantustans and between bantustans kept alive the possibility that territory could be transferred between South Africa and the independent states. This article looks at Lesotho’s claim to the ‘Conquered Territory’, the transfer of Herschel and Glen Grey to the Transkei at ‘independence’ in 1976 and the 1982 Swaziland land deal to argue that the study of bantustans needs to be done in a regional framework to understand how bantustan leaders, the leaders of smaller regional states and apartheid leaders all deployed the idea of land transfer and border changes to project state power and gain leverage in other negotiations. It must, however, be noted that often the cost of diplomatic struggles over borders, boundaries and the projection of state power were, and continue to be, borne by those who live in the region’s contested borderlands. Utilising the concept of a ‘borderscape’, we argue that border contestations were central to defining ideas of state power in southern Africa during the apartheid era.
    Published as:
    Journal article    
    Last Updated:
    2 years ago
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