Ciskei was a nominally independent state - a Bantustan - in the south east of South Africa. It covered an area of 7,700 square kilometres, almost entirely surrounded by what was then the Cape Province, and possessed a small coastline along the shore of the Indian Ocean.
Under South Africa's policy of apartheid, land was set aside for black peoples in self-governing territories. Ciskei was designated as one of two homelands or "Bantustans" for Xhosa-speaking people. Ngqika (Rharhabe) Xhosa people were resettled in the Ciskei, and Gcaleka Xhosa were settled in the Transkei, the other Xhosa homeland.