THE nominally independent state of Ciskei was part of a "grand apartheid" vision that sought to assign ethnic components of the black majority to impoverished rural homelands and thus leave the white minority in control of the economic wealth of "white" South Africa.
The 10 black homelands - comprising about 13 percent of the land designated "tribal" in laws passed in 1913 and 1936 - would be granted political independence with the promise of separate-but-equal status.
This vision - known as "separate development" - was an attempt by the architect of apartheid, former Prime Minister Hendrik Verwoerd, to morally justify racial segregation.
Four states - Transkei, Ciskei, Bophuthatswana, and Venda - accepted independent status. The other six have resisted it.
The international community has never recognized the homelands, because the process that led to their creation was seen as undemocratic and part of the grand-apartheid scheme.
In terms of this vision, all black South Africans would acquire citizenship of an independent homeland but would be denied political rights in the remaining 87 percent of the country containing the mineral wealth, major industries, and all the major cities. Industrial decentralization was to ensure that the trend toward urbanization would be reversed and that blacks would begin to flow back to the homelands by the mid-1970s.
Today the vision has turned into a nightmare. The homelands have remained economic wastelands, despite costly - and largely futile - efforts to attract industries to the border areas. Financing flourishing homeland bureaucracies has imposed a crippling burden on Pretoria's budget.
The first generation of black leaders, who were prepared to toe Pretoria's line, have - in some cases - made way for leaders aligned with the African National Congress (ANC).
THE creation of Ciskei and Transkei is of special significance in the Pretoria plan because it divided the Xhosa-speaking people into two groups that can be played off against each other. Transkei, the traditional home of ANC President Nelson Mandela, is four times the size of Ciskei and has become an ANC stronghold under military ruler Maj. Gen. Bantu Holomisa, thus subverting the grand design of apartheid's architects.
The Xhosas, the second-largest ethnic group after the Zulus, were the first to come into contact with white settlers and the first to organize politically along Western lines during the early part of this century. The ANC was the only established black political movement at that time.
That has made the smaller homeland of Ciskei a prime target in the last decade or so for fostering the Pretoria government's policy of divide-and-rule.