oa Africa Insight - Country profile - Transkei and Ciskei

Volume 17, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 0256-2804



The black and white peoples of South Africa first made contact about 200 years ago, in the land south of the Great Kei River, on the eastern seaboard of what was then known as the Cape Colony. The area on both sides of the river was inhabited by Xhosa tribes, the vanguard of the southward-moving negroid peoples. Today, the land of the Xhosa comprises two independent republics: Transkei and Ciskei. Transkei, the largest of the two states (42000 km2), is located north of the Great Kei and is separated from Ciskei, to the south, by a narrow sliver of South African territory (""Border"" area) containing the port of East London and centres like King William's Town and Queenstown. Transkei is also larger than Lesotho, its northern land-locked neighbour. Two Transkei districts, Herschel to the north, and Umzimkulu to the east, are separated from the rest of Transkei by the Republic of South Africa. Ciskei, by contrast, has a consolidated territory but its surface area of 9000 km2 is one of the smallest on the continent. Most Transkeians (some 95 per cent) live in rural areas, while more than a third of Ciskei's population is urbanized. In contrast to Umtata (the capital of Transkei) and Gcuwa (also in Transkei), which have relatively small populations, urban areas in Ciskei like Mdantsane and Zwelitsha together have well over 200 000 residents.

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