Ciskei (sĭskĪˈ) [key], former black "homeland" and nominal republic, SE South Africa, in what is now Eastern Cape prov. Surrounded by the former Cape Province of South Africa, it consisted of two parcels of land, the larger one bordering the Indian Ocean to the southeast. The capital was Bisho (now Bhisho). Ciskei was largely dependent on South Africa for economic support.
Under acts of the South African Parliament, land was set aside for blacks in pseudoindependent territories (originally called "bantustans"), allegedly to allow blacks self-government and cultural preservation. Ciskei was designated for Xhosa-speaking people. In 1961, Ciskei became a separate administrative territory and in 1972 was declared "self-governing." During the 1970s Xhosa-speaking people were relocated to the homeland.
In 1981, Ciskei became the fourth homeland to be granted "independence" and subsequently its residents' South African citizenship was revoked. Ciskei, like all of the homelands, was not recognized as an independent nation by the international community. Even after the legal foundation of apartheid was largely struck down in 1991–92, the Ciskei government remained closely aligned with the South African government. In Sept., 1992, Ciskei police fired on a crowd of African National Congress demonstrators, killing 28 and wounding several hundred. South Africa took control of Ciskei in early 1994 after a coup by local police, and later that year, Ciskei and the other homelands were reincorporated into South Africa after the nation's first all-race elections.