South African urban areas, because of structural control exercised within them, have developed unique characteristics. One of the more distinctive features of urban apartheid is the creation of Homeland townships lying adjacent to certain of the country's towns and cities. This paper seeks to explore the essential motivation underlying the creation of the ethnically distinct urban centre of Mdantsane in the Ciskei Homeland between 1949 and 1988. The reason for the development of Mdantsane, a dormitory township of East London, are explored, as are the primary issues underlying its emergence. In order to fully investigate Mdantsane's evolution it is essential not to divorce the township from developments, through time, in East London. The impact of apartheid planning on the East London region is assessed.