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Republic of Bophuthatswana

(Tswana) Repaboleki ya Bophuthatswana
> (Afrikaans) Republiek van Bophuthatswana

Bophuthatswana was the legally designated Bantustan ("homeland") for the Republic of South Africa's Tswana people. It originally consisted of six discontinuous enclaves, with a total area of 15,610 square miles (40,430 square kilometers); the addition of the area around the city of Mafikeng, in 1960, brought the total area to 17,031 square miles (44,109 square kilometers). The capital was Mmabatho. The name of the republic meant "that which binds to the Tswana."

map of Bophuthatswana
map of Bophuthatswana

flag of Bophuthatswana
flag of Bophuthatswana


The Bophuthatswana Territorial Authority was created in 1961. It was declared a self-governing state on June 1, 1972, with Lucas M. Mangope as chief minister, and was granted independence by the South African government on December 6, 1977; Mangope became President at that time.

The Republic of Bophuthatswana's independence was not recognized by any government other than those of South Africa and Transkei. In order to gain independent country status internationally, President Mangope launched a campaign to build top-class facilities, including hospitals, schools and sports stadia. Although he was able to establish a trade mission in Tel Aviv, Israel, and successfully concluded business deals with neighboring Botswana, Mangope was unsuccessful in securing international recognition of his government.

On February 10, 1988, Rocky Malebane-Metsing became the President of Bophuthatswana for one day when he took over the government through a military coup. He accused Mangope of corruption and charged that the recent election had been rigged in the government's favor. Mangope was reinstated thanks to military intervention by the South African Defense Force.

In 1990, during another coup attempt in which an estimated 50,000 protesters demanded the president's resignation over his handling of the economy, the New York Times reported that seven people had been killed and 450 wounded "after police officers in armoured cars fired their rifles into the crowds and used tear gas and rubber bullets." This coup was also put down with help from the South African government.

Under the South African constitution that abolished the apartheid system, the Republic of Bophuthatswana was dissolved and reintegrated into South Africa on April 27, 1994.


At the time of its creation Bophuthatswana had a population of approximately 1,245,000. That population had grown to about 2,352,000 by the time of the republic's dissolution in 1994. Though 99% of its population was Tswana-speaking, Tswana, English, and Afrikaans were all designated as official languages by the constitution.


Most of Bophuthatswana’s semiarid terrain was used for grazing beef and dairy cattle, while the scarce arable land supported corn, sorghum, wheat, and peanuts. The republic's platinum mines accounted for two-thirds of the total platinum production in the Western world. It was also rich in asbestos, granite, vanadium, chromium and manganese. Small-scale industries produced beverages, processed tobacco, textiles, wood products, and leather goods. Gambling casinos also became a source of income during the 1980's.

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This page was last updated on March 14, 2018.