Transkei (trănskī´), former black
and nominal republic, E South Africa, in what is now Eastern Cape prov. Transkei was bounded by the Great Kei River on the south, by the Indian Ocean on the east, by Natal (now Kwazulu-Natal) on the north, and by Lesotho on the northwest. Two exclaves were separated from the main territory, in the northwest by Cape Province and in the northeast by Natal. The capital and main city was Umtata (now Mthatha).
Part of the Drakensberg Range was in W Transkei. Much of the former territory of the homeland is hilly or mountainous, and there is little good farmland. Most of the area's inhabitants speak a Xhosa language. Roughly two thirds of the Transkei's income was provided by the South African government, and all trade was conducted through South Africa.
In the 1830s and 40s the Transkei was the scene of fighting between European settlers and Africans over the possession of cattle and grazing land. The territory was gradually annexed by Britain in the late 19th cent. and incorporated into Cape Colony (later Cape Province). Transkei was separated from Cape Province in 1963 to become the first of ten black areas within South Africa that were ostensibly internally self-governing. In 1976 Transkei became the first of the homelands to be granted "independence." The South African government then revoked the citizenship of its residents. Transkei's assembly controlled many internal matters, but its decisions were subject to the control of the South African government. From 1978 to 1980 territorial disputes prompted Transkei to sever diplomatic relations with South Africa. Like the other homelands, it was not recognized internationally as an independent state. In 1994, after a multiracial election, the establishment of a new South African government, and the end of apartheid, Transkei and the other nine homelands were reabsorbed into South Africa.