Historians often suggest that African elites were eclipsed by an era of mass politics and insurgency during the South African transition, trade unions and popular insurgency in townships seen as having dominated political life, with rural and regional forces perceived as secondary or disruptive. Yet across the continent, Native Reserves were often well-springs of African leadership in the mid-twentieth century, with political leaders such as Mandela usingregionally rooted clan, schooling and professional connections to vault to leadership. They crafted expansive nationalisms from these 'kin' identities, and regional elites were co-opted by settler governments, most notably into the Bantustans in South Africa. This history of Transkei during apartheid offers a new interpretation of the significance of ethnicity within African nationalism, uncovering the ambiguous connections between the nationalist elites, the chieftaincy and the Bantustan bureaucracy, and unraveling the complex relationships with the ANC. The author reassesses the Bantustans and the changing politics of chieftaincy, showing how local dissent within Transkei connected to wider political movements and ideologies. Emphasizing the importance of elite politics, he describes how the ANC-in-exile attempted to re-enter South Africa through the Bantustans drawing on elite kin networks. This failed in KwaZulu, but Transkei provided vital support after a coup in 1987, and the alliances forged were important during the apartheid endgame. Finally, in counterpoint to Africanist debates that focus on how South African insurgencies narrowed nationalist thought and practice, he maintains ANC leaders calmed South Africa's conflicts of the early 1990s by espousing an inclusive nationalism that incorporated local identities, and that 'Mandela's kinsmen' still play a key role in state politics today. Timothy Gibbs is Junior Research Fellow at Trinity College, Cambridge.
Subjects: History, Political Science, Sociology
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