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Durham University

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Publication details for Dr Anne Heffernan

Heffernan, Anne (2017). The University of the North and Building the Bantustans, 1959–1977. South African Historical Journal 69(2): 195-214.

Author(s) from Durham


This article explores the role of The University of the North (Turfloop) and its impact on the Bantustans it was intended to serve during the early years of their formation. Turfloop was founded in 1959 and, like other ‘bush colleges’ that served ethnically-segregated Bantustans, it was meant to educate the Pedi, Venda, and Shangaan elites who would go on to populate the nearby homelands of Lebowa, Venda, and Gazankulu. In practice however, by the late 1960s and early 1970s when these entities were gaining their ostensible independence from Pretoria, the University of the North was becoming a regional centre of political dissent. This article considers the divergence of the ideal of the ‘apartheid university’ and the real role that Turfloop played in the development of two of the Bantustans it was intended to serve: Lebowa and Gazankulu. In particular, it explores the influence of prominent members of the university on the early governance structures of Gazankulu, and the ways students and staff used Turfloop, as Bantustan institution, for disparate personal and political purposes. It suggests a broader range of forms of political engagement with Bantustan institutions than the conceptions of Verwoerdian ‘Grand Apartheid’, or collaboration versus resistance dichotomies, allowed.