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Venda Homeland under Apartheid
Dr. Orville Boyd Jenkins
A review of the book by the Bureau for Economic Research/Institute for Development Studies (Rand University)
The Independent Venda (Johannesburg:  Benso, 1979.  197p.)
(This book is no longer in print)

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This book was published in the Apartheid era in South Africa, when the Afrikaner-led government was separating the ethnic groups of South Africa.  I found it in a used book stall at a flea market in Kempton Park, South Africa, one Sunday afternoon.

Anyone who has not heard of Apartheid lived under a rock for decades.  One of the practical steps in this amazingly fanatical, degrading and oppressive social practice of racial separation was to establish "homelands."

Homeland Nationalities
A certain ethnicity would be assigned to its own homeland, supposedly the original land of that people and their continuing geographical "country."  The "citizens" of this patch of land within the territory of the Republic of South Africa would thereby be deprived of their South African citizenship, and now considered foreigners in the RSA outside their assigned homeland.

The territories of some of the larger ethnic "nationalities" were many separate bits of land scattered across many miles as individual enclaves inside the surrounding sea of South Africa.  And yet the fiction was that these ethnic "homelands" were independent nations.

Venda was one of the more unitary geographical areas, making up a "homeland" of the Venda people.  This book provides a profile the Venda homeland.  Venda was located in the northern part of Transvaal, now Northern Province, near the border with Zimbabwe.

Venda, however, did not actually border Zimbabwe, since an important narrow strip of land along the border was retained by South Africa as part of its integral territory.  This farcical, restrictive and selfish line-drawing by the government of RSA limited the viability of the "independent Homelands."

This was one of the many ludicrous features of the Apartheid effort to separate the African ethnicities politically and economically from white South Africa.  These homelands were gradually granted "independence" by the RSA, which amounted to a type of autonomy, but not any international recognition as a sovereign nation.

It is interesting to read the perspective of a people and their "homeland" from the perspective of the independent administration of that territory.  The book supplies very good historical and ethnic information, with a lot of details about the traditional and then-current customs and ethnic practices of the Venda people, for whom this was indeed their original tribal area.

Foreign Workers
The book points out, however, that about one-third of the Venda people lived in locations in the RSA, outside the "homeland" of Venda.  They, like hundreds of thousands of black South Africans of all ethnicities, worked all over the Republic.

Yet until the coming of democracy under the "New South Africa" in 1994, they were considered foreign workers under the Apartheid scheme in which Venda, along with other black homelands, was an "independent" foreign country.  As "foreigners" in South Africa, citizens of the fictional Venda nation, they had to have work permits in order to work outside the geographical boundaries of Venda.

This provided the labour of these workers to the white families who hired them, yet denied them the right of independent presence in these restricted areas.  The homeland policy made official the separation of races that was so important to the racial politics and nationalism of the Afrikaners.

This was valuable as a view into the past, and a bit of insight into the perspective of the Venda leaders of the homeland government of the era.

This book is no longer available.
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Bought, read and initial reading notes made 14 May 2006
Review written and posted on Thoughts and Resources 24 November 2008

Orville Boyd Jenkins, EdD, PhD
Copyright © 2008 Orville Boyd Jenkins
Permission granted for free download and transmission for personal or educational use.  Other rights reserved.

Email:  orville@jenkins.nu
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