• ‘Independence’ for bantustans was universally rejected by the international community in
    the late 1970s and early 1980s. How the status of Lesotho and Swaziland as
    internationally recognised states deeply embedded in South Africa’s economic and
    political orbit differed from that of the bantustans was clear in some cases, murky in
    others. The apartheid regime floated many ideas of land transfer in an attempt to force
    these states to recognise the bantustan system and, by extension, the legitimacy of
    apartheid. While some of these proposed transfers were non-starters, the fact that the
    apartheid regime did transfer land from South African ownership to the bantustans and
    between bantustans kept alive the possibility that territory could be transferred between
    South Africa and the independent states. This article looks at Lesotho’s claim to the
    ‘Conquered Territory’, the transfer of Herschel and Glen Grey to the Transkei at
    ‘independence’ in 1976 and the 1982 Swaziland land deal to argue that the study of
    bantustans needs to be done in a regional framework to understand how bantustan
    leaders, the leaders of smaller regional states and apartheid leaders all deployed the idea
    of land transfer and border changes to project state power and gain leverage in other
    negotiations. It must, however, be noted that often the cost of diplomatic struggles over
    borders, boundaries and the projection of state power were, and continue to be, borne by
    those who live in the region’s contested borderlands. Utilising the concept of a
    ‘borderscape’, we argue that border contestations were central to defining ideas of state
    power in southern Africa during the apartheid era.