Ciskei was a Bantustan in the south east of South Africa. It covered an area of 7,700 km², almost entirely surrounded by what was then the Cape Province, and possessed a small coastline along the shore of the Indian Ocean.
At the end of the 19th century, the area known as British Kaffraria between the Fish and Kei rivers had been set aside for the "Bantu" and was from then on known as the Ciskei. Europeans gave the name Ciskei to the area to distinguish it from the Transkei, the area north of the Kei. The name Ciskei means "on this side of the Kei River".
In 1961 Ciskei became a separate administrative region and in 1972 was declared self-governing under the rule of Chief Justice Mabandla and then Lennox Sebe. In 1978 it became a single-party state under the rule of Lennox Sebe, and after an independence referendum in 1980, in 1981 it became the fourth homeland to be declared independent by the South African government and its residents lost their South African citizenship. However, there were no border-controls between South Africa and Ciskei. In common with other Bantustans its independence was not recognised by the international community.
In 1990 Brigadier Oupa Gqozo deposed Sebe and ruled as a dictator – despite an initial promise of a swift return to civilian rule. During 1991 and 1992 many of the legal foundations of apartheid in South Africa were removed, undermining the rationale for the homelands' continued existence. The African National Congress pressed strongly for them to be reincorporated into South Africa. This was opposed by Gqozo and the other homeland leaders. In March 1994, Ciskei government workers went on strike for fear of losing their job security and pensions in the post-apartheid era. The police then mutinied, prompting Gqozo to resign on 22 March. The South African government took control of the homeland to ensure security until the elections could be held the following month.
Ciskei and all of the other homelands were reincorporated into South Africa on 27 April 1994, after the first post-apartheid elections. Along with Transkei, Ciskei became part of the new Eastern Cape Province. Its capital became the capital of the Eastern Cape Province.