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07-29-2012, 03:28 PM
Cape Town - Pre History
The Birth of Table Mountain
The story of Cape Town must begin with Table Mountain. The mountain creates a rain shadow, providing rain and the streams that flow in its valleys. Small forests grow in the ravines and the mountain provides shelter. Soil has developed on the mountain slopes, in contrast to the sandy plains beyond. Without these vital elements the area would would not have attracted human settlement.
So our story of Cape Town begins by looking back in geological time to understand the birth of Table Mountain. Only then can we turn to the evolution of the Cape's fauna and flora and set the scene for the arrival of man.
Table Mountain is one of the oldest mountains on earth, six times older than the Himalayas and five times older than the Rockies. It's story begins eight hundred million years ago when sandstone began to form underwater.
Sandstone is a relatively soft rock but it was given strength by magma rising from the earth's core. When magma reaches the surface it often forms a volcano, but in this case it stopped underground, cooled and formed hard granite. You can easily see granite rocks along the coast of the Cape Peninsula today.
Around 300 million years ago the mountain was still at sea level during an ice age and ice sheets flattened the layers of sandstone creating the flat surface that today we call the 'Table Top'.
When the continents split apart, stresses and pressures built up in the earth's crust. If the rocks of Table Mountain had been made only of sandstone they would have folded under the pressure, but the granite gave it strength, deflecting the forces down. Slowly this process forced the layers of rock to rise, slowly becoming the kilometre high mountain we know today.
Throughout its history, Table Mountain has been eroded by the action of wind, fire, ice and water. The flat face of the mountain is a cliff face, caused by the action of waves when the sea lapped against it. On the mountain you can find strangely shaped rocks and deep ravines caused by millions of years of erosion.
Over its long history Table Mountain would see great changes in the plant and animal life around it, and we now turn to this.
Plant and Animal Evolution
Fossil pollen evidence has shown that from one billion to 5.3 million years ago the region around modern Cape Town was predominantly lush, subtropical rainforest. The superb West Coast Fossil Park near Langebaan has revealed fossils of great and fascinating creatures that lived in wetlands and forests five million years ago - double tusked elephants, saber-toothed cats, various species of hyena, the African bear, ancestral birds and white rhino.
However, the climate became more typical of the Mediterranean and the landscape more arid with the cold Benguella current flowing from the Antarctic. Plants and trees came under pressure from lack of water and an increasing frequency of fires. Many species of flora and fauna began to decline. The short-necked giraffe became extinct around 1.5 - 2 million years ago; the sabre-toothed tiger 1.8 million years ago.
Some plants, with origins in the mountains of central Africa, were suited to a drier climate and began to dominate and diversify. Over the last five million years they have evolved and multiplied into more and more species that are now recognised as the unique Cape Floral Kingdom.
This complex kingdom of at least eight and a half thousand species includes numerous bulbs, heathers, grasses and proteas. Locally these plants are known as 'fynbos' because they have hardy wooden stems and fine leaves. In general they grow low to the ground and are extremely well adapted to high winds, long droughts, fire and wet, cool winters.
Although fynbos provides little grazing for animals, herds of elephant, antelope and buffalo continued to migrate to the area. These included the now extinct Blue Antelope, the Longhorn Buffalo and various zebra species. Fossils of these species have been found at sites such as Elandsfontein and Duinfontein. Lions and leopards preyed on antelope until modern times.
Southern Africa rivals East Africa for the title 'cradle of humankind'. Discoveries at Sterkfontein, Taung and Makapa reveal that australopithecines (primitive forms of humans evolved from apes) were living in the region three and a half million years ago.
Discoveries from various stages of human evolution have been made in South Africa, including hand axes made by Homo Erectus 750,000 yeas ago in the vicinity of Cape Town, now on display in the Wellington Museum in the winelands.
But the oldest evidence of modern humans (Homo Sapien Sapiens) found anywhere in the world, was found in the region of Cape Town. In the 1960s Anthropologists dated bones of modern man found at Klasies River, on the coast between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth, at 80,000 years old. In 1994 further discoveries at this cave were dated 100,000 years old.
On the Cape Peninsula at Fish Hoek, remains from Echo Cave have been dated to between 75,000 and 50,000 years, and rock art found there is as old as 28,000 years.
But the oldest record of all is of footprints made by a human woman near the lagoon at Langebaan - just north of Cape Town. These prints are dated at 117,000 years old and are called 'the footsteps of Eve'. They are on display at the SA Museum in Cape Town.
Further work is underway and more sites have been uncovered in recent years. According to this evidence, the first modern people that evolved lived around Cape Town.
The Khoe San
Archaeology has shown that the earliest human communities ever recorded lived in sight of Table Mountain. We cannot say for certain how they lived, but since the climate is quite arid, and there is no evidence of a complex civilisation, one can infer that they lived in small nomadic groups hunting animals and gathering edible plants.
This is not to say they lacked sophistication - their art, some dated at 27,000 years old, has been described as 'one of the high points of human visual creativity' (Ross, 1999, pg. 9).
However, much further north, groups of hunter-gatherers, probably in northern Botswana, turned to herding sheep and, later, cattle (pastoralism). Whether by migration or cultural transmission, the practise of herding drifted south, and was present along the rivers and coastline north and east of Cape Town at least 2,000 years ago.
Wherever there was good grazing, pastoralism became established, but it is not suited to very arid or mountainous areas. Thus, a distinction arose between the San people who continued to live by traditional hunting and gathering in difficult environments, and the Khoe who herded sheep and cattle on the plains.
Genetically these groups were very similar, although the Khoe, enjoying a better diet, tended to be taller and bigger. Their appearance was described by the traveller William Burchell in 1811
'they were small in stature, all below five feet; and the women still shorter; their skin was a sallow brown colour.. Though small and delicately made, they appeared firm and hardy' (quoted, Thompson, 1995, Pg 6)
They also shared a similar distinctive language made up of clicks. And we believe they traded with one another - for instance swapping meat for milk - and in times of difficulty or for the sake of marriage perhaps exchanged lifestyle. Together, they are known as 'the KhoeSan'.
The San encamped under rock overhangs in the mountains or in small camps in dry areas. It is clear they lived in the mountain ranges just north of Cape Town until the nineteenth century.
They lived in small nomadic 'bands', numbering between 20 and 80 people, consisting of several family groups.
The women foraged around the camp for food, gathering bulbs (especially those of Arum lilies), roots, stalks and fruits. They also made clothes from skins sewn with catgut.
The men made bows and arrows, coating the tips with the venom of snakes and poisonous plants, and hunted antelope. It appears that they conducted religious ceremonies in preparation for a hunt, with a shaman entering a trance and his experiences recorded in rock art. The Eland is often represented and seems to have been a recurring theme in their mysticism.
Musical instruments were also made by the San, and European explorers testified to their skill in playing them. Men also gathered the favourite San delicacy - wild honey.
The name 'Khoekhoe' means 'men of men'. Their herds of sheep and cattle gave them a stable, balanced diet and they lived in larger groups than the San.
Clan groups, descended from a common ancestor, lived with their chief in kraals where they kept their herds. They made their small homes of reed mats covered with animal skins. An elephant's ear served as a door.
Clans were identified with a particular territory, but were semi-nomadic, moving whenever grazing land became depleted. The territories were not rigid and overlapped. The chiefs of several clans recognised a paramount Chief and were loosely associated under him as a 'tribe'.
Thus the Khoekhoe had a much larger, more complex and hierarchical society than the San.
European records of the sixteenth century show that there were several Khoekhoe tribes living around the region of modern Cape Town, and there was occasional warfare between them.
Interestingly, the tribe around Table Bay, the Goringhaikona, had no herds and lived on seafood that they found along the coast.
07-29-2012, 03:33 PM
Explorers and Merchants
For three weeks a great storm raged along the Cape coast in January 1488. Bartolomeu Dias was on his latest expedition to chart the coast of Africa and find a way to the East (more..)
He had last sighted land on the 6th January, a range he called 'the Mountains of Three Magi Kings' (today, the Cederberg). Then the violent storm engulfed his two 50 ton Caravels and carried them in its fervour, south and east.
When they finally escaped, Dias swung north in search of land, and on the third of February entered a bay 170 miles east of the Cape (Mossel Bay). They could see men ashore herding cattle, and called the bay 'Angra dos Vaqueiros'. Dias continued along the coast as far as Algoa Bay (Port Elizabeth) but turned back for the sake of his terrified crew.
On his return, in clear weather, he saw the Cape Peninsula for the first time and entered 'the Gulf Within Mountains' (False Bay). He erected a cross near Cape Point and spent a month at anchor drawing maps.
He returned to Lisbon with news of his discovery of the 'Cabo Tormentoso' (Cape of Storms). But for his princely sponsor, Henry the Navigator, had a better name - it was a 'Cape of Good Hope' for it promised a sea route to the riches of Asia. The discovery had been eagerly anticipated.
Ten years later Vasco de Gama followed the route via the Cape all the way to India and opened a sea route for the spice trade. The Cape would never be the same again
European trade routes overland to Asia had been thrown into chaos by Muslim expansion across North Africa and into the Balkans. Venice and Genoa had dominated this trade. Gold imported from Africa was minted in Italy, and paid for profitable imports of spices and silk from Asia. Now these land routes were imperilled. The Portuguese sought to find a sea route around Africa to Asia, thus re-opening trade and taking the profits so long enjoyed by Italian cities.
Each year Portuguese explorers were ordered to go further south. First they edged their way along the west coast of Africa, marking their achievements with stone crosses. Soon, their efforts were rewarded: in 1480 the first Portuguese ships loaded cargoes of gold in the Senegal River and the Gulf of Guinea.
The explorers, like Diego Cao and Dias, were instructed to go further. They planted more crosses along the coastline which turned first to equatorial rainforest and then to dry scrubland. In 1485 Cao reached the coastal dunes of the Namib. Dias continued along the barren, unknown coast, and finally made his historic passing of the Cape in ignorance, wrapped in the storm of January 1488.
Before another mission could be launched, an Italian - Christopher Columbus, working for the rival Spanish - seemed to squash the promise of the Cape by discovering a much shorter route to 'the Indies' in 1492. But it proved a false alarm and the Portuguese renewed their efforts.
Vasco da Gama
In 1497 Vasco de Gama set off from Lisbon with four ships and followed the African coast. He rounded the Cape, and stopped for Christmas along the South East coast of South Africa - naming it 'Terra do Natal' (the land of Christmas).
At Malindi (Mombassa) he struck east to cross the Indian Ocean and arrived in Calicut, on May 20th 1498. He returned in triumph to Lisbon via the Cape, after 26 months away and the loss of two ships.
These long, hazardous, brave journeys 'changed the course of both Western and Eastern history' (Thompson, Pg 31), and prepared the way for a settlement at Cape Town.
With the round profile of Africa chartered, and the routes to rich trade opened to all Europe, Southern Africa, so long isolated, was exposed to a completely new set of influences.
The Cape, at the half way point of the long journey, would always be a logical place to stop between West and East, where trade would lead to settlement and cultures would mix. In due time the roots of East, West and Africa grew together, creating a unique city. However, the process took much longer and was more difficult than may have been expected.
Sea Merchants and the Cape of Good Hope
The Iberians (Portuguese and Spanish) dominated the trade route via the Cape throughout the sixteenth century.
The Portuguese maintained a number of strategic bases in East Africa and Asia to support their fleets - but the Cape was not one of them. Antonio de Saldanha was probably the first man to sail into Table Bay, but there he was wounded when a misunderstanding developed between his sailors and the Khoekhoe. More clashes followed and the Khoekhoe became regarded as 'dangerous cannibals' to be avoided .
The Cape also developed a fearsome reputation among Iberian sailors for its dangerous seas. Dias - the first to call it a 'Cape of Storms' - disappeared without trace, with half his fleet, when trying to round the Cape on the expedition of 1500.
Terrifying legends developed about the Cape. Cameon in 'the Lusiads' compared the Cape to the fearsome monster Adamastor. Offended by his discovery Adamastor sends storms upon passing ships.
There was also the story of the Flying Dutchman - of a sea captain on a ghost ship, cursed to forever battle the Cape's storms (later, Wagner made the story into an opera). The Iberians grew wary, and avoided lingering at the Cape, mindful of curses, storms and dangerous locals. Thus, the Cape remained isolated.
An Englishman, however, had a very different perspective, and he set the tone for the English attitude to the Cape. Sir Francis Drake, pursued by the Spanish fleet, his ship laden with booty, escaped the Pacific by heading west and circumnavigating the world.
He encountered the Cape Peninsula in fair weather and later affirmed it 'the fairest Cape and the most stately thing we saw in the whole circumference of the globe.' He arrived in England in 1580, after three years at sea.
The Dutch and British
In the late sixteenth century Iberian dominance of Asian trade was surpassed by the English (EEIC) and Dutch (VOC) East India Companies.
The use of the 'trade winds' across the southern Indian Ocean meant that sailors no longer had the opportunity to replenish stocks at bases in east Africa. The Cape therefore became more strategically important and the English, in particular, increased their trade with the Khoe.
As early as 1608 sailors submitted reports pressing the EEIC to establish a permanent English settlement at the Cape. One can imagine that as they set out tents along the beaches, and traded under the hot sun with the unpredictable Khoe, the idea of a permanent British supply post seemed very attractive.
English sailors feared the VOC would take control of the Cape, and EEIC mariners unilaterally declared the land annexed to Britain in 1605 and again in 1620 - but for political reasons the British government ignored these claims and they were not ratified.
In 1644 the VOC's Mauritius Eylant foundered on the rocks of Mouille Point and 250 men were forced to live on the shore of Table Bay for four months. Three years later the Haarlem ran aground at Granger Bay and 62 VOC sailors were left for a year in a makeshift fort made of ship's salvage.
Their experience, however, was not as the Dutch expected. They sent reports to the Directors of the VOC to allay fears. They declared that the Khoekhoe were not ferocious cannibals - as rumoured - but friendly, and willing to live on good terms with Europeans. They also reported on the available resources and fertile soils, and how they had provided not only for themselves but also supplied passing ships.
A New Base
The fleet that picked up the Haarlem castaways included a young company merchant - Jan van Riebeeck - returning to Holland in disgrace, accused of private trading.
Perhaps influenced by the sailor's reports, and keen to rehabilitate his reputation in the Company, Van Riebeeck volunteered for service at the Cape when, finally, in 1650 the VOC took the fateful decision to establish a permanent supply base.
The VOC had been swayed by the reports of its sailors and fear that at any time the Cape might be annexed by the British.
That the VOC decided to establish a base at Cape Town, is not surprising. Bases at Goa, Mombassa, Malacca, Ormuz and Beira were all established in the sixteenth century, and more followed.
The surprise is that the Cape was not settled until the mid-seventeenth century. It enjoys a strategic position halfway along the trade routes to Asia, and was well known to sailors.
However, the opportunity to occupy the bay and supply passing ships was not taken by Portugal nor England. It was a reputation for the fierceness of the seas and the Cape's Khoe inhabitants, and the ebb and flow of European politics, that kept the Cape isolated for so long.
That was to change forever when Van Riebeeck set out from Texel on Christmas Eve, 1651 with 5 ships and orders to erect a fort and ensure the provision of supplies to passing ships at the Cape of Good Hope.
07-29-2012, 03:47 PM
Settlement - The First Years
Jan van Riebeeck arrived at the Cape on the 6th April 1652 in command of a small detachment. His orders were explicitly not to establish a colony, but only a fortified trading station.
He was to sell meat, wine and vegetables and other supplies bartered from the Khoe or produced by him at a company garden. His employers, the Dutch East India Company (VOC), had no desire to pay for the conquest and administration of territory. Their interest was to stop a British occupation of the Cape and ensure the provision of vital supplies to their shipping fleets en route to the East.
Following his orders, Van Riebeeck's constructed a fort with a moat and earthen walls at the water's edge and, under the direction of gardener Hendrik Boom, beds were laid out in 'the Company Garden' just beyond the fort.
It soon became apparent that the Khoe were unable or unwilling to trade sufficient supplies. Far from being able to supply passing ships, van Riebeeck's men found themselves short of food (more...)
Thus he petitioned the company to release employees from their contracts to become farmers and 20 acre plots were allocated along the Liesbeeck river in 1657 (more...)
In a fateful move that led to the distinct multi-racial character of Cape Town, van Riebeeck ordered slaves to be brought from Asia to help work the farms and develop the settlement (more...)
The enclosure of land led to war with the Khoe in 1659 and the indigenous people were pushed back .
A Town Develops
The VOC had issued firm instructions that no town should be built. Van Riebeeck, however, could not resist the insistence of Mrs Boom, the gardener's wife, who wished to open a boarding house near the garden. She deserves the title 'the mother of Cape Town'. By 1657 there were four taverns, providing respite to sailors for the first time.
Some free burghers, meanwhile - struggling to establish farms - gave up agriculture and turned their hand to crafts and professions. They too persuaded van Riebeeck to permit workshops and buildings near the port. Very soon there were four streets of buildings, which sailors referred to as 'Cape Town'.
The VOC was alarmed, and sent a message repeating that there was to be no town, only a fortified trading post. Van Riebeeck assured them it was 'more the name than the reality'.
When van Riebeeck left on board the Mars in 1662, to take up command at the VOC post in Malacca, the Cape Peninsula had been transformed forever. There were 200 Europeans, slaves from Asia and Africa, warfare, farms along the Peninsula, a fort, jetty and the first streets of 'Cape Town'.
A hierarchical, diverse, multi-ethnic and stratified society had been established. He had been sent to create a trading post, but had directed the first chapter of colonisation by violent conquest, both of the land and its people.
The power of the local Khoe had been broken, but there was soon a more powerful threat to the colony. War was looming between Britain and Holland. Van Riebeeck's fort almost collapsed after heavy rain in 1663. The VOC directors (Heren XVII) ordered a castle built of stone.
In 1665 slaves were put to work at a site on the shoreline, where the canons were in range of the anchorage. The large pentagonal fort, with a bastion at each angle, became the centre of VOC government in the Cape. It contained the residence of the governor and other officials, offices, the bakery, garrison and dungeons. It was finally completed in 1679. The fort is still in use as a barracks and open to the public.
Simon van der Stel
Forty years old, well educated, widely travelled and related by marriage to a director of the VOC, Simon van der Stel quickly developed ambitious plans for the expansion of a colony when he arrived in 1679.
Survey teams and geologists were sent out and he surveyed for himself the fertile mountain slopes beyond the Cape Flats. One night he camped among bushes on an island in the Eerste River. He declared he would build a town along the stream, and name it after his night in the shrubs - 'Stellenbosch'.
The land around the town would be developed for farms, and especially wine making (wine was required for the ships). Each year he celebrated his birthday with festivities in the elegant, oak lined village he had founded, which is today an attractive town in the winelands. He latter developed farms and settlements at Paarl and Drakenstein on the Berg river.
In 1685 he established the magnificent Groot Constantia wine farm as a model to Dutch farmers. He was a cultured man, dismayed by the poor quality of wine production, and determined to teach the Boers (farmers) by example.
However, soon Simon discovered a better way to improve farming. When King Louis XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes, providing religious tolerance in France, many Huguenot (protestant) refugees made their way to Holland. Van der Stel asked the VOC to provide passage to the Cape for any with experience of wine farming.
Roughly 200 were shipped over, increasing the population by a third. They were provided with limited supplies and sent out to establish farms, first to the region of Paarl and then to an elephant breeding ground called 'Oliphantshoek' that later became known as 'Franschhoek'. Van der Stel may be regarded as the father of the South African wine industry.
Simon also explored the Peninsula and named 'Simon's Bay' - a natural harbour in False Bay that was to be used extensively in years to come, and is today the major naval base of the SA Navy. A road was built from Constantia Nek connecting the colony to Hout Bay in 1693.
In Cape Town itself, Simon instituted a hospital in 1697. With so many sick sailors arriving at the Cape, and illness common in the town, it was designed for 225 patients and located in the quiet of the company gardens, which was designated a botanical garden as production shifted to the farms.
By 1700, the Cape Peninsula and the winelands were widely settled. Khoe resistance had been broken by warfare. Extensive tracts of land had been cultivated and plantation forests established. The herds of elephants, antelope and buffalo, hippos and lion prides had been reduced to remnant populations.
Slaves performed the hardest manual tasks and the Khoe had been put to work as shepherds. The Burghers (citizens), many of whom had been very poor in Europe, made themselves land owners and directors.
Slowly, the ratio of females to males became more even as burghers and officials called their wives from Europe, also, orphan girls were sent from Holland and female slaves arrived.
The VOC no longer tried to stop the energetic expansion of the colony, but their policy remained the same. The VOC would maintain, at the lowest possible cost, a trading post at the Cape to supply passing ships. All that had changed was that the products would not be acquired from the Khoe and the Company Gardens, but from the growing European settler population. It was still to be a trading post.
But in order to derive profits, the VOC had to retain control to stop the settlers trading directly with the ships. They supported the colony only in as much as required to make it economically productive. Their administration was therefore small, essentially commercial, but insisted upon absolute control.
The Cape, therefore, was a 'colony' in that it was under VOC rule from Batavia, and, ultimately, Amsterdam, but there was no sense of a colonial 'civilising' mission as seen later in Africa. There was no attempt to build a society.
Thus, there was an active and large hospital, because sailors needed to recuperate. But there were virtually no primary schools and never a secondary school to serve the settler population. No missionaries were sent to the Cape. Few churches were built, and the VOC maintained control of church appointments.
Local politics was strictly controlled. There was no newspaper, in fact no printing press and no encouragement given to local politics. The Governor controlled all appointments to the main ruling councils - the Council of Burghers and Council of Justice.
The influence of the VOC diminished with distance from Cape Town. Cape Town was the only harbour and the VOC's purpose was to control trade, they therefore had little concern for the rural areas and did not spend significant sums on their administration.
The powerful figures were those Boers (farmers) who had prospered and consolidated large mixed farms grazing sheep and cattle and producing grain and grapes. These farms were like small principalities, largely self-sufficient but trading surplus for certain luxuries.
The farms were worked by Khoe workers and slaves purchased from VOC auctions in Cape Town. Boers adopted a paternalistic attitude to their slaves - a coercion based upon affection, petty rules and harsh discipline. Psychologically it was a powerful mix, because it bred a feeling of inferiority. This was reinforced by the designation of childish dress codes and names.
Wealthy burghers built impressive homesteads in a style reminiscent of Holland, that became known as 'Cape Dutch'. Many very fine and attractive examples remain in the winelands. They also maintained houses in Cape Town and became influential among VOC officials, often leaving their farms under the management of senior slaves to concentrate upon their 'town affairs'.
The sons of burghers drove the expansion of the colony. In the social hierarchy that had developed, Europeans expected to own a farm, they did not work for other farmers - that was equated with the role of slaves. They had to be 'baas' - and so they needed farms of their own. This simple, but powerful social motivation, drove successive generations to venture further and further away from Cape Town, creating a maverick 'frontier' racked by hostility with the KhoeSan and later the Bantu. They were called 'trekboers'.
Cape Town in the 1700's
Cape Town steadily grew during the 1700s to a population of several thousand Europeans and their slaves. Travellers described it as a 'pretty' and 'neat' town with straight streets on a grid pattern. A tree-lined canal ran from the Company Gardens down the main street (Heerengracht) and around the Grand Parade, flowing into the sea by the Castle.
Along the shoreline stood warehouses and shipyards and behind them townhouses with white lime plaster walls, green shutters and thatched roofs. Since the mid-eighteenth century a distinctive Cape style had developed of a Dutch origin but with distinctive Asian influences. There were more than a thousand houses by the mid-eighteenth century.
Each year, on average, 70 ships laid anchor in Table Bay, usually remaining for nearly a month. As visitors came ashore along van Riebeeck's jetty by the Castle, they found a town where the impressive double storey townhouses of wealthy burghers and VOC officials stood alongside taverns, lodgings and workshops.
The town lacked the sophistication of Amsterdam, or the exotic attractions of Batavia, and visitors commented upon the problems of rough roads, wandering animals and open sewage, but it was generally rated an attractive town, and particularly welcome after months at sea.
Visitors were the economic lifeblood of the town and the locals offered bed and board and developed a quiet trade selling exotic goods from the privacy of their homes, for fear of the rules of the VOC.
Wealthy visitors could find rooms in the finer houses and wrote of the abundant, fresh food and the dancing laid on for their enjoyment. There was also a wine shop, that offered tours of Table Mountain, complete with hampers carried by slave porters.
Sailors found their way to boarding houses and tented camps, and filled up the taverns, which had a reputation for prostitutes and brawls with the local soldiers. 'The Scottish Temple' was a popular bar and brothel and it prospered for much of the century. Cape Town lived up to its nickname 'Tavern of the Seas'.
Cosmopolitan Cape Town
The streets of Cape Town in the 1700s hummed with extraordinary diversity. VOC employees were drawn from all over northern Europe - Scandinavia, Russia, UK, France, Switzerland, Germany and Holland. As the 1700s progressed the VOC employed more Asian sailors - Indian, Javanese, Chinese.
Senior VOC officials behaved and dressed with great pomp. By contrast, VOC soldiers formed a rough underclass, often involved in brawls with sailors living it up in the taverns.
The oppressed slave population added further to the diversity. Cape Town's slaves had origins in Eastern, West and Southern Africa, Madagascar and Mauritius, Ceylon, India, Malaysia, Indonesia and elsewhere.
In addition there was a growing population of mestizos - from the pregnancies of female slaves or Khoe women by European sailors and slave owners. In the early years of the settlement there were cases of marriages between Europeans and slaves whom they had emancipated. There were also cases of slaves having illicit children by Khoe women.
Apart from the slaves, there was a much smaller group of 'free blacks' - people who had been released from slavery and Asian ex-convicts who had completed their sentences and remained - usually because they had no means to return home. Others were simply non-Europeans who had, for whatever reason, stopped and settled at the Cape. There was a small immigrant Chinese community, for instance, that dominated candle making.
There were, however, less than 400 free blacks at the end of the century, although they dominated the fishing industry and also worked as artisans. They enjoyed the same status as free burghers (citizens) and were free to live anywhere in the town. It is clear that they socialised freely with burghers, officials and sailors in the taverns.
Some free blacks owned property and were better off than some burghers, although, in general, they were worse off than most Europeans because they started with no capital. Only at the end of the eighteenth century did some discrimination develop and they were legally required to carry passes, like slaves.
The Boom of the 1780's
In the 1780s Cape Town enjoyed a 'boom' decade. France and Holland were at war with Britain and French troops were stationed in Cape Town 1781 - 1784 to prevent a British invasion. French mercenaries remained thereafter, at great expense to the VOC.
The garrison developed the 'French lines' - a network of defences to protect the eastern approaches to the town, and complement the VOC's 'sea lines' and Signal Hill batteries. Furthermore, French merchants made the Cape their base for trade in the Indian Ocean and to supply French bases at Reunion and Mauritius.
All of this led to a mercantile boom. Several impressive buildings in Cape Town date back to this time, not least the work of French military engineer Louis-Michel Thibault and the German sculptor and wood carver Anton Anreith. They worked together on the cellar at Groot Constantia, the re-building of the Slave Lodge and, separately, on modifications at the Groote Kerk, the Lutheran Church and Koopmans de Wet House. All of these may be seen today.
The boom, however, led to inflation. Furthermore, the VOC was in terminal decline. The British East India Company had broken the VOC monopoly in Indonesia. Furthermore, trade was shifting to the products of India and China, where the British were dominant.
The VOC paid no more dividends after 1782. Meanwhile, the number of its employees at the Cape tripled to 3000 as the VOC employed mercenaries to defend the colony. Corruption and the loss of morale crippled the Company.
Legacy of the VOC
Jan van Riebeeck was sent to establish a fortified trading base and a company garden at the Cape. In practice he laid the basis of a colony that expanded hundreds of miles beyond the Cape peninsula, beyond the control of the VOC itself, that ultimately evolved to became the Republic of South Africa.
Although sailors, soldiers and officials came and went, a population developed native to the Cape that did not look to other shores, but regarded Cape Town as home. It was a complex, eclectic and multi-cultural population, ill-educated and predominantly poor, but resourceful, with a broad base of skills, resentful of authority, and stratified into different classes. This was not a racial order, of the type that later developed in South Africa, but an economic order. It was an economy based upon cheap labour and slavery, enforced by law (more...).
Under the rule of the VOC a situation developed where most Europeans owned farms or businesses and held a preferred legal status as 'free burghers'. Most Asians worked as artisans, or held responsible clerical jobs, and were considered senior slaves or free blacks. And some Asians and most Africans were slaves living under a harsh rule of law.
Especially in the frontier farming communities a tough, violent, ill-educated and arrogant culture had developed that destroyed Khoekhoe society. The San would follow, and today the closest relatives of the KhoeSan live outside of South Africa, in the deserted places of Namibia and Botswana, groups such as the !Kung and G/wi. They had also engaged in hostilities with the Xhosa on the eastern frontier - the first of many wars to follow.
The elegant towns of Stellenbosch, Tulbagh, Swellendam, Graaff-Reinet and Cape Town itself are products of the Dutch era and retain their character to this day. The winelands owe much to Simon van der Stel, and the Franschhoek valley was cultivated for wine making by the courage of the Huguenots he brought to the Cape. South African wines came to prominence long before the end of the Dutch era, especially sweet desert wines like Vin de Constance, Napoleon's favourite wine.
Cape Town had developed as a busy and strategic port, whose significance would only grow in the following two centuries. Agriculture was well established and although local industries were in their early stages, a broad range of 'cottage' trading and manufacturing activities had developed and some professional services were emerging.
From the 'great babel' of languages a unique form of Dutch began to emerge in the form of Afrikaans, with words borrowed from several languages, including Khoe ('Kudu', 'Cango') and influenced by the Arabic spoken by many of the slaves. Cape food developed as a fine fusion of eastern spice in western meals. In the following century British puddings would be added to produce the truly eclectic 'Cape Malay' cuisine.
Unique forms of music, weddings and festivities developed with Asian influences among the free blacks. A fine architecture, similar to Dutch but with hints of the East and local adaptations, have given us the attractive townhouses, homesteads and Drostdy (magistrate's houses) that are enjoyed to this day and have become known as the Cape Dutch style.
It was truly a 'mixed bag' that the British inherited when they landed troops at Muizenberg in 1795.
07-29-2012, 04:02 PM
The British Era
On 9 July, 1795, a squadron of the British fleet under Admiral Keith Elphinstone sailed into Simon's Town harbour, which the VOC had neglected to fortify.
Major-General James Craig and his infantry went ashore and negotiations began, but broke down in early August. A regiment of Khoe soldiers, sent out by their masters to do battle at Muizenberg, retreated after a brief skirmish and the town surrendered.
The cause of the British invasion was war with Napoleon. The Dutch King had fled and a puppet regime established in Holland. Britain sent troops to the Cape before revolutionary France could capture the strategic port. It was intended as a temporary occupation, until Napoleon was defeated, and the British returned the settlement to Dutch rule when peace was established in 1803.
In January 1806, however, hostilities resumed and the British returned to the Cape, landing to the north of the city at Blouberg. The Scots Highlanders, blowing their pipes, advanced and the mercenaries hired to oppose them fled.
The British remained a 'temporary force' until 1814, when the comprehensive peace following Waterloo gave the Cape to Britain. Up until that time, and for some years to come, the British were content to keep the status quo - perhaps to the surprise of the local people.
The administration of the VOC was retained, the legal system remained Roman-Dutch law and Dutch was used widely in government. The early Governors - like Lord Charles Somerset (1811-26) - were themselves landed aristocrats and had much in common with the powerful Cape land owners. Furthermore the Burgher Senate continued to run the town. The VOC was gone, with all its autocratic restrictions on trade, to be replaced by a British authority with a surprisingly light touch.
The British garrison - at times numbering 8000 personnel - helped to stimulate the local economy and British troops defended the eastern frontier where the trekboers had encountered the powerful Xhosa.
By 1820 only 757 British people had settled in the Cape. Meanwhile the economy had strengthened and farmers were reaping the rewards of favourable tariffs for wine exports to Britain.
Perhaps the most memorable impression of the British in these early years was of aristocrats based in India arriving with servants, to banquet with the Governor and set off on shooting expeditions into the interior.
In all other respects the town continued along Dutch lines, indeed with greater freedom and political participation than they had enjoyed under the VOC. There was, in the first twenty to thirty years, considerable continuity with the past. This suited the British, who wished to minimise administration costs and avoid confrontation.
The Reform Movement
In the early years of the nineteenth century, British merchants, mostly former employees of the British East India Company, established companies in Cape Town to trade and export agricultural and other products.
Merchants became the driving force of a powerful and active middle class that set about bringing British liberal 'reform' principles to Cape Town society. These values found expression in the editorials of John Fairbairn, the founder of the first newspaper (1824) - the 'South African Commercial Advertiser'. The paper encouraged energetic support for the emancipation of slaves, the liberalisation of trade, participation in sport, development of infrastructure, health care, literacy, education, science, the arts and self-government.
Merchants based at the Cape were supported by 'the Trading Society' in London that lobbied the Imperial government on their behalf. The vision was also shared by a new generation of government officials in the Cape that built infrastructure and set about developing schools.
In combination, government and the middle class developed a vibrant civil society and a modern city at the Cape. Societies for leisure and learning were established.
Through trade the middle class grew in wealth and power and developed the resources to establish important financial companies in the 1830s.
The middle class aimed to re-develop the town and transform it from a 'rural' Dutch town into a colonial capital. They argued for this on the grounds of civic pride and public health. Particularly as commerce gathered pace much of the old Dutch town was replaced with grand new buildings.
The desire to 'modernise' Cape Town from its Dutch trappings extended also to culture. Support was given to British missionary organisations, and more denominations sprang up. Scottish ministers were even fed into the Dutch Reformed Church to give the church a more 'British' feel (this back-fired, the Scots became fervent Afrikaners).
However, it was the movement to abolish slavery that was to cause the biggest and most damaging break between the British and 'Afrikaner' populations of the Cape.
The 'Dutch' Cape population (they were in fact a mix of European nationalities by origin) did not take easily to this new mood of liberalism and change.
They and their religious ministers defended a narrow Calvinism and a slave-based economy. The ideas of the Enlightenment and of German rationalism, still less the precepts of the French revolution, had not penetrated the Cape under the VOC. Nor were they welcome in their distilled British form.
The energetic liberalism of the British middle class produced a response in the 'Dutch' population and newspapers expounding conservative views were produced. De Zuid-Afrikaan was founded in 1830, and challenged liberalism and the abolition of slavery. Dutch theatre companies, such as the 'Africander Amateurs' offered alternative plays. Dutch societies formed for the pursuit of the arts, science, education and literature.
The Reformed Church took on a centrality to life it had not had under the VOC and became much more active. In contrast to the British, who represented the force of colonialism, this population of European descent began to describe itself as 'Afrikaners'. It was a loose term, probably not exclusive to whites, but all those who used the form of Dutch that had evolved at the Cape.
In the 1830s, however, young Afrikaners in the city began to follow more liberal ways, and intermarriage between the merchants and the daughters of prosperous burgers, and trade between burgers and merchants helped to cement bridges across the cultural gap.
The gulf between the British and rural Afrikaner communities, however, grew wider with the emancipation of slaves (1834) prompting ten per cent of the European population to leave the Cape, with their slaves, and cross the Vaal River in search of independence. This 'walk out' on British rule is known as the Great Trek and has been the subject of many books, including Mitchener's 'The Covenant'.
The gulf between British modernity and Afrikaner conservatism remained and was only closed, temporarily, when in 1848 the British government proposed to ship British convicts to the Cape. There were vociferous public protests and the 'Neptune' was kept out at sea with her cargo of convicts for five months. Eventually she was sent on to Australia. It was a seminal episode, for it showed that in spite of their differences the white population of the Cape would unite in the face of a common threat to their interests.
A City Develops
After the end of slavery a new, more complex society began to take shape in Cape Town.
Although the ruling class was white, so too were many of the working class. State-aided schemes brought poverty-stricken settlers from the UK, who tried to establish themselves in the Cape. A third of all servants in 1865 were white.
The British introduced the term 'coloured' for non-Europeans, and 'Malays' to refer specifically to Cape Muslims. Records show roughly equal numbers of coloured and whites in most occupations, including the skilled professions. Mixed marriages also continued. Some areas of the city were distinctly 'coloured' but for the most part working class whites and coloureds lived in the same areas and pursued the same occupations.
Many Afrikaners claimed compensation payable to slave owners. With this capital they invested in property and turned from slave-owners to slum landlords. In the absence of building restrictions (introduced 1861) houses were built without water or sewerage disposal, separated by narrow alleyways. Areas of lower Cape Town and District 6 developed in this way, with certain 'slum lords', such as J Wicht, owning hundreds of such cramped dwellings, renting out rooms to poor families.
The cruel poverty of these areas helped to maintain the popularity of the taverns that had developed under the VOC. Wine and whisky, in particular, were available cheaply.
Temperance societies and later the Salvation Army and the YMCA tried to counter the rowdy alcoholism that was a feature of city life.
The end of slavery, therefore, created a society that was much more obviously stratified, with a distinct contrast between the bourgeoisie middle class with their regency townhouses, pianos and carriages and the extrovert, piece-work class of artisans, many of whom lived in terrible slums.
The powerful middle class aspired to political control and had for many years campaigned for self-government. In 1840 a Municipality was created, with councillors elected on a non-racial but qualified franchise. The qualifications rested upon income and property ownership.
In keeping with British policy of self-government in the dominions, 'Representative Government' was established at the Cape in 1853, hastened by the display of local political opinion over the arrival of the Neptune the previous year. This created a 'Legislative Council' of MPs empowered to pass laws for the Colony, although administration remained under British control.
Finally in 1872 fully fledged 'Responsible Government' was established, with an upper house and administrative control. The franchise remained qualified, but non-racial. Cape Town had become a colonial capital. The impressive Parliament buildings set in the old VOC Company Gardens were completed in 1885, and are today the South African parliament.
A more conservative era took hold with self-government. Afrikaners were in the majority of whites, particularly in the country districts. The terms of the franchise meant that only the landed classes could vote - and this excluded most non-European people. Furthermore, only property owners worth more than £1000 could sit in the upper chamber.
Inevitably the assembly was partial to commercial interests, rather than those of the poor. Policies were geared to appeal to retailers and professionals, who made up the majority of voters. New laws such as the 'Master and Servants Act' of 1856 did much to turn the clock back on worker's rights.
The Rise of Prejudice
With the development of self-government the liberal influence began to diminish. Political power had shifted to the local population, which was mostly conservative and Afrikaans. The Cape government was dominated by the 'Afrikaner Bond', a group of influential Afrikaner leaders focused upon promoting Afrikaner interests.
British influence was also changing. Throughout the Empire, liberal confidence was giving way to jingoism as economic rivalry developed with Germany and the United States. Furthermore, the 'scramble for Africa' had begun: European rivalry expressed in colonial conquest. To justify this race for African territory, a popular version of Darwinism was giving rise to bigoted ideas of racial superiority. Such ideas fuelled a new mood of negativity in Cape Town toward non-Europeans.
Some newspapers, like the Cape Argus, continued to appeal to public sympathy for the poor, attacking the role of slum lords like Wicht. But others, like the Cape Times, wrote damning accounts of the 'moral pollution' of poor neighbourhoods, laying the responsibility for the conditions at the door of the poor themselves.
Increasingly, such views carried racial overtones. The Malay were no longer characterised as 'quiet' but 'rebellious, lazy, ignorant'. Blacks too, were labelled as 'indecent' and 'immoral'. The 'Lantern' carried an exposé in 1881 of the 'profanity, drunkenness and immorality' of blacks living in a slum in Woodstock.
There were increasing calls for 'order' and 'control' to be exerted over these unruly, diseased and violent people, as they were caricatured.
The battle between liberal sentiment and conservatism was fought out among politicians in the municipal and Cape governments. Liberals tended toward greater action, and thus expenditure to alleviate social problems, but were countered by the financial interests of rate payers.
Factions earned names like 'the dirty party' and the 'clean party'. It was only in the 1890s that adequate water, drainage and sewerage were introduced, under considerable pressure from the colonial health authorities.
Without political will, little was achieved to alleviate the conditions in the slums. Instead large funds were invested in developing infrastructure.
Railways were built, connecting Cape Town to the winelands (1863), and the length of the Peninsula (1864). Telegraph lines were laid to Grahamstown (1863) and London (1885). Road building also continued, particularly the extraordinary construction of mountain passes by the Bains, father and son.
The building of the harbour from 1860, was particularly ambitious and a prison for convict labour and a broad gauge railway were constructed for the purpose.
The development of the Cape's infrastructure came just in time to capitalise on the great diamond boom that started in 1867, and the economy of the Cape grew fivefold in five years, 1870 - 1875.
Cape Town itself swelled, as immigrants settled in the city. The British and European populations grew substantially, and other ethnic groups became more numerous, including Jews, Indians and Africans.
In 1865 the population was 28,400, in 1891 it had grown to 67,000 and in 1904 171,000. The villages and suburbs became dense urban areas and settlements spread to the north of the city along Table Bay. The settlements were racially mixed, although for the 'protection of public health' municipal officials began to consider moving non-whites into separate areas.
The outbreak of the South African War in 1899 led to further immigration and economic growth. Cape Town did not experience any fighting, although raiding parties did threaten the winelands. In economic terms the war was a great boom for the city as soldiers and huge quantities of equipment passed from the harbour to the railways.
The War, however, also created growing slum areas with an influx of refugees. Families arriving without possessions were installed in tents along Dock Road. When disease broke out, they were shifted to Maitland, and when evicted by the Maitland municipality they tended to drift into District 6.
An outbreak of the plague in 1901 heightened concerns for public health and municipal officials set about enforcing racial segregation. For this reason the first townships were developed.
The End of British Rule
As the twentieth century broke, Cape Town was a confident Imperial Capital. The impressive colonial City Hall and Herbert Baker's Gothic Anglican Cathedral were completed in the first years of the century.
Stevens, a British journalist, described it as 'Denver with a dash of Delhi… neither over-industrious nor over-lazy, decently successful, reasonably happy, wholeheartedly easy-going'.
Leisure was an important feature of city-life. 'Rational pastimes' were promoted, particularly to boost tourism - the pier, bathing, concerts, theatre and cinema. Muizenberg was promoted as the 'Brighton of South Africa' and became a popular bathing spot. Green Point common was developed for sports clubs and swimming baths were built.
Beneath this confident appearance, however, there were racial tensions as non-whites expressed resentment at the attitudes and racial policies of the municipality.
The white community, too, was seeking a new era. A spirit of magnanimity had developed following the defeat of the Boers in 1902. English speakers were looking forward to a new era in a united South Africa.
The National Convention of 1909, to forge peace between British and Afrikaners, established the boundaries of the modern unified South Africa. Cape Town was to be the legislative capital, but the Executive would be based in Pretoria.
The agreement promised peace and reconciliation between English and Afrikaners and self-government within the Empire, but it failed to take account of black aspirations and this was to overshadow the twentieth century.
When the British arrived in 1795, Cape Town was essentially a 'Company Town', closely controlled in all aspects of life by the VOC. The rural areas were distant and largely independent of the town. Slaves were the backbone of the small economy.
In 1910 Cape Town was an imperial capital of a large and strategically important colony. It's population was heading for two hundred thousand. The abolition of monopolies and slavery had led to greater economic freedom, and liberalism encouraged a free society. It had a large and active commercial class, civil society and local political movements.
Slavery had been abolished and a highly complex multi-cultural society had emerged, stratified into widely differing classes and identities. Whites dominated the upper classes but whites were also present in the lower classes, and there were non-whites in professional occupations. Racism was on the rise and beginning to inform political policy, but was not yet the determining factor of Cape Town society.
A strong liberal tradition was established in the town in the first half of the century by the emerging British middle class. Their efforts led to the growth of many centres of education, religion and publishing, many of which continue to this day.
The middle class also established strong business institutions, several of which are still trading. With active imperial officials, they helped to push through programmes that created the modern city and its infrastructure. Their welfare work gave rise to charitable works and church missions that created a more compassionate society.
As self-government developed in the second half of the century the combination of emerging English chauvinism and Afrikaner conservatism led to a less compassionate and more overtly racist and prejudiced society. The discovery of diamonds and then gold, then the South African War created successive economic booms.
Workers came from rural areas and across the continent to find work. A significant black population began to grow. The benefits of these booms, however, were not shared, and the divisions of wealth became more extreme with slums growing around the city. On health grounds the first 'township' was set aside for blacks outside the city.
07-29-2012, 04:08 PM
1910 - 1948
On 31 May 1910, the unification of South Africa brought to an end the old colonial certainties. Previously Cape Town stood as an Imperial Capital of The Cape Colony. That colony was now simply a Province of the new Union of South Africa. The grand parliament buildings in Cape Town became the legislative capital of the new state, but Pretoria was made the administrative capital.
It was soon clear that real power and influence would no longer lie in Cape Town but in the Transvaal, the old Afrikaans republics that included the economic centre of the Rand (the gold seam at Johannesburg) and the political capital at Pretoria. Furthermore, Durban's port was proving more profitable than Cape Town's due to its easy access to the Transvaal.
Losing economic and political influence, Cape Town promoted itself as a cultural centre and worked to define South African identity in terms of its Cape Town roots - the arrival of van Riebeeck and the Imperial era.
Divisions in Cape Town society became very plain during World War 1 and were compounded by a depression in the 1920s. In the new era Cape Town was increasingly subject to the hardline, racially-minded politics of the Transvaal, and racist attitudes hardened.
Although not as swiftly as Johannesburg, Cape Town became an industrial city as the port expanded and motor cars, electricity and cinema arrived. Electricity reached people's homes in the 1930s and the Table Bay power station was built in 1936 bringing a significant increase to Cape Town's revenues.
Images of the city in the early twentieth century are characterised by the pier built in 1925. But demands for improved city infrastructure and new docks led to the demolishing of the pier in 1940 to make way for a massive land reclamation scheme which extended the city, created land for freeways and wharfs for the modern port.
In the process concrete replaced the old seafront and these developments marked a new, disconnected and imposing era. Capetonians came to associate the pier with a pre-apartheid Cape Town when social relations were more easy going, the pace of life slower and the town was by the sea.
Many of the monuments and buildings that characterise Cape Town today were erected in the early twentieth century. Some, like Rhodes Memorial (1912) represent a nostalgia for the Imperial era, others celebrated the VOC era.
The 'Cape Dutch' movement begun by Cecil Rhodes inspired his architect Sir Herbert Baker and organisations such as The South African National Society. Numerous farm houses, Cape Dutch buildings, the Old Supreme Court and the Castle were preserved. Baker and his followers popularised building in the Cape Dutch style of gables, thatch, verandahs and whitewash.
Organisations such as the Van Riebeeck Society (1918) projected Cape Town as the 'Mother City' of South Africa, the cornerstone of its cultural heritage. They defined South Africa and its heritage in terms of the arrival of Europeans at the Cape.
Other developments consolidated Cape Town's place as a cultural centre. The University of Cape Town (UCT) was formally established in 1918 following bequests from mining magnates, and was built on land bequeathed by Rhodes from his Groote Schuur estate. The Campus buildings were completed in 1930 by J.M. Solomon, one of Herbert Baker's associates.
Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens were established in 1913, as a showcase for Southern African flora. The National Gallery was built with public gardens containing WWI war memorials. In 1930 the Place Name Committee decided that 'Capetown' be renamed Cape Town, as the former was considered undignified.
Although Cape Town asserted itself as the 'Mother City' of the South Africa, nevertheless there remained a strong attachment to the UK, and not only among English-speaking whites, but also among others who sensed that the new conservative order would treat them less favourably than the liberal regime of Britain.
The mood was well expressed during the royal family visit in 1947. The city arranged a series of flamboyant spectacles to welcome King George and his family from banquets to firework displays, balls, reviews and garden parties that included mock 'Malay' weddings. The connection to Britain helped Capetonians feel part of the international community which was perceived to be 'civilised'.
Migration to Cape Town continued during the twentieth century with an influx of people considered Bantu, Coloured and Afrikaans, European and Jewish, Indian and West Indian. Prejudice and government policy frustrated and separated these groups.
Coloured people struggled, and failed, to forge a clear identity or a consistent political voice. In the face of economic hardship, rejection and discrimination the group was too diverse to respond to the pressures upon it.
Bantu (blacks) were growing in number and the first half of the twentieth century saw the politicisation of Cape Town's black residents. Major influences were the First World War, living conditions within the city, unionisation and political leadership - both local and international.
Through discriminatory employment practices wealth became tied to race. The ruling elites consistently differentiated groups, with whites receiving preferential treatment and attention. Increasingly, economic differences separated the races into different suburbs, churches and facilities. Laws and policies also enforced some segregation, but only on the political margins was their opposition to increasing racial division.
Amidst racial division and economic problems, Afrikaners asserted their culture, especially in language and literature (more..). Although many Afrikaners spoke English and remained loyal to the moderate United Party led by Jan Smuts, there were others that turned to the rising tide of rightwing Afrikaner nationalism.
In 1933 South Africa's largest fascist organisation, the South African Gentile National Socialist Movement (the Greyshirts) was established at the Koffeehuis, the favourite meeting place of the Afrikaner nationalists in Cape Town. Shortly before, South Africa's Nazi Party was founded by Professor Hermann Bohle. This rightwing tide would in due course find expression in the National Party Government of 1948 that brought in Apartheid.
Growth and Control
Between the two world wars, Cape Town developed into a modern industrial city but did not grow at the same pace as Johannesburg. Manufacturing in Cape Town remained within the food, drink, tobacco, clothing and printing industries. Large increases in the population and ambitious urban planning led to the development of 'Garden Cities', townships and a massive land reclamation scheme along the city foreshore.
Overall, however, the city remained locked in an economic depression between the Wars, especially during the 1920s. The sustained economic crisis led to deep poverty and a related increase in crime.
Whites were protected from the worst of the economic crisis through government policies that provided better education to whites, employment opportunities and support for Afrikaner businesses. By the 1940s legal backing was given to segregated workplaces and suburbs, to the advantage of whites and the exclusion of others, especially blacks. Steadily the city became divided on racial lines.
The first squatter camps developed around the city and poor inner city areas like District 6 became more crowded. In 1923 the Urban Areas Act was passed forcing Africans to live in designated locations. A new location named Langa was opened to replace the overcrowded Ndabeni township. Langa was designed to provide authorities with the maximum control over access. Various laws regulated behaviour in the township and it was ruled by a superintendent.
Cape Town was declared a 'closed city' to control further black migration. However, during the Second World War migration rules were relaxed. The failure to provide housing for the large numbers that arrived led to the development of large squatter areas. A humiliating 'reception centre' was established at Langa to process newcomers and many blacks were forced to leave.
During the first half of the twentieth century Cape Town lost its place as the pre-eminent city of Southern Africa. With the formation of the Union of South Africa in 1910, government and political power shifted to the Transvaal.
Although the population continued to grow rapidly and the city became industrialised, it fell behind the booming economy of Johannesburg. Nevertheless it found its place in South Africa as a cultural centre - expressing South Africa's heritage in terms of European settlement and the British Empire.
The racial prejudices and attitudes that had developed toward the end of the British era were reinforced and extended by the policies of the Afrikaans-dominated government in Pretoria. Increasingly, whites benefited from discriminatory policies while others were impoverished by the Depression. The city became increasingly divided along racial lines.
The older suburbs still contained a mixture of coloured and whites, and areas like District 6 remained mixed. But new townships, like Langa, were designed specifically for blacks, with an emphasis upon state control. Laws restricted the migration of blacks to the city.
Nevertheless, in 1948 four-fifths of Africans still lived outside locations (townships). Many lived in shanty towns, some of which also had coloured populations. Older areas like District Six, that were mostly coloured, also contained a mixture of Indians, some whites and blacks.
Some workplaces became segregated and, increasingly, education and employment policies ensured that racial divisions characterised the workplace. Some public and leisure institutions were segregated including swimming pools, hospitals and law courts and some cinemas, hotels, cafes and the main beaches. But still, there was no uniform policy of segregation or formal racial categorisation.
In 1948, however, a government was elected committed to a policy of apartheid, a policy of universal segregation, that would ruthlessly categorise and divide the population.
07-29-2012, 04:13 PM
In our legends and literature there was a giant in the sea close to the cape who prevented ships from passing :D
07-29-2012, 04:20 PM
In 1948 the National Party led by Rev Dr DF Malan came to power with a manifesto of apartheid (separate development). Although discriminatory policies already existed, this was to be a systematic categorisation and segregation of the population, enshrined in law, with the white group accorded privilege and power. His belief in racial superiority is expressed in the following quotation:
'We Afrikaners are not the work of man but the creation of God. It is to us that millions of semi-barbarous blacks look for guidance, justice and the Christian way of life'
Legislation was soon enacted that required all residents to register their race - a particularly significant law given the very mixed heritage of so many Capetonians. The National Party intended to segregate whites and coloureds and expel all Africans from the Western Cape to 'homelands'. Under the 'Group Areas Act' suburbs of the city were zoned according to race; inevitably the privileged and desirable areas were zoned 'white'.
Apartheid entered the Post Office in the form of separate queues in 1949. In the same year the Prohibitions of Mixed Marriages Act was published and in 1950 the Immorality Act. These acts prevented coloureds or Indians having sexual relations with whites, in the same way that Africans were already prohibited. Such rules brought heartbreak - one 20 year old coloured youth who could not legally marry his pregnant white girlfriend committed suicide.
In 1950 the Population Registration Act officially divided South Africa into 'White', 'Coloured', 'Asian' or 'Native' (African). It was mandatory for all Capetonians over 16 years to carry Identity cards specifying their racial group. Those who were previously able to enjoy an ambiguous racial status were assigned a race, and given no choice in this. In a subsequent act 'Chinese' and 'Indians' were declared subgroups of the category 'Coloured', as were some 'Malays' but only if they lived within particular areas (Wynberg, Simon's Town or Bellville).
Later one could appeal against one's racial classification, and if one could not prove one's ancestry then a physical examination of hair, nails and eyelids was undertaken. There were many controversial cases in Cape Town, with some Coloureds seeking to prove they were white. In one absurd case a family was split as one twin was re-classified white while her sister remained coloured.
From 1951 a permit system was established that controlled property transfers and changes of occupancy from members of one 'race' to another. This had serious effects on the businesses of many African and coloured shop-owners and artisans, who were suddenly prevented from operating in 'white' areas. In the early 1950s there was increasing pressure on Capetonians to move voluntarily into areas designated to their racial classification, as the authorities tried to avoid having to use force.
The battery of race laws introduced in the early 1950s, and extended in following years, affected every aspect of life for South Africans.
It provided whites with access to the most privileged suburbs, education, jobs and positions, even to the extent of exclusive access to beaches, theatres, parks and public toilets. Blacks, conversely, were excluded from these by law, ruthlessly enforced by the police. Coloureds and Indians enjoyed more privileges than blacks, but all 'non-whites' were disadvantaged and disenfranchised politically.
Discrimination occurred at two levels, there was Grand Apartheid, which established separate homelands and areas, and 'Petty Apartheid' which segregated everyday places. The Separate Amenities Act of 1953, included a clause stating that separate facilities no longer had to be 'substantially equal', so allowing the government to provide better facilities to whites.
Every amenity imaginable was subject to racial categorisation, from taxis and ambulances, parks, maternity wards and graveyards to walkways over roads and parking spaces in drive-in cinemas. Beaches were strictly segregated with those offering more facilities, bathing and interest (such as Boulders Beach) designated 'White only'. Africans were only permitted on Mnandi Beach, and although coloureds were allocated more coastal areas these were unattractive and lacking in facilities.
In the mid-fifties, the government attempted to further restrict racially mixed gatherings by amending the Group Areas Act to prevent anyone going to a restaurant, a concert or the cinema in an area not zoned for their racial group. With the threat of large fines, only a few groups, such as the National Union of South African Students (NUSAS) and the Liberal Party, dared continue mixed social gatherings.
The Native Laws Amendment Act (1957) prohibited Africans from going to church services in white areas. However, despite the lack of protest by the Dutch Reformed Church, the law was not enforced and some churches became the rare public places where cross-racial gatherings persisted.
Somewhat ironically, the only other places where this occurred were in nightclubs such as the Catacombs and Navigators' Den, famous for drug-dealing and prostitution.
Higher education in Cape Town was affected by apartheid laws in the late fifties that designated the University of the Western Cape as 'coloured' and permitted UCT to admit African students only if the course they applied for was not taught at a 'bush' campus.
The apartheid hierarchy of privilege was enforced systematically and ruthlessly. In the late fifties, further proposals were made under the Group Areas Act including the removal of all non-Europeans in Cape Town (except domestic servants) beyond the railway lines in the Northern and Southern Suburbs.
This made a large area available for whites, but removed almost as many blacks from their homes. Many Capetonians boycotted the public hearings in which these proposals were discussed during 1956. Groups such as SACPO and the Wynberg Dutch Reformed Mission Church protested, but achieved only a few concessions such as the zoning of lower Wynberg for coloureds.
Over the years entire areas were destroyed, of which District 6 remains the most infamous of the 'forced removals'. The area was totally destroyed and 60,000 people were forced to leave. It remained a barren wasteland for the rest of the apartheid era. The total number of people displaced from the city centre was 150,000 leading to vast social disruption and permanent damage to many communities (more..)
By 1976 a section of Woodstock remained the only 'controlled' or undecided area of Cape Town, and retained a more mixed community.
In 1955, 'reference books' were introduced in Cape Town for all blacks over the age of 16. These were sanctioned under the Natives Act, and were meant to consolidate all the previous documents that Africans were required to carry (permits, passes, certificates etc.). They carried a photograph and a copy of the famous section 10 of the Natives Act that required Africans to work continuously in the Cape if they were to retain their right to live there.
Thus if someone was born and brought up in the Cape, but left for year with their family, they were 'endorsed out' of Cape Town. Between 1954 and 1962 this was the fate of more than 18,000 men and 6,000 women.
The police could stop black people at any point and demand to see their papers. It was humiliating and criminalised many black people unable to immediately produce the correct documents. Meanwhile, the state made the Cape a 'coloured preferential area' thus requiring that coloured workers should be employed in preference to blacks. This reduced the numbers of blacks eligible to work in Cape Town and also created a lasting rivalry between blacks and coloureds.
In education the government prohibited private schools working without state approval. This especially effected Mission Schools, which had formerly provided the best education for blacks. A very limited education system was introduced for blacks called 'Bantu education', a curriculum designed to equip Africans 'in accordance with their opportunities in life' i.e. for menial work.
The result of 'Bantu education' in Langa High School was a rapid decline in staff and student morale, academic performance, sports and other extra-curricular activities, as well as a rise in alcohol abuse and teenage pregnancies.
Resistance and Repression
In the early years of apartheid resistance was widespread, but it was not united.
By its nature apartheid was a divisive force. The effects of apartheid were being felt very differently across the city's communities. For Africans, influx control was the most difficult aspect, whereas for coloureds the Group Areas Act was breaking up community life. Whites were privileged, and few would risk taking part in protest action that might lead to arrest. Opposition groups were thus divided and became critical of one another.
The government's reaction to protest was to outlaw opposition. The Criminal Law Amendment Act made it a particular offence to break a law 'to protest, or in support of any campaign against the law'. Hence if one stood in the wrong queue by mistake one may get away with a reprimand, but if this was judged to be 'out of protest' then one could be liable to a large fine or five years in prison.
The Public Safety Act was soon added, thus enabling the government to declare a State of Emergency whereby it could act without restraint in the name of curbing protest. The Suppression of Communism Act (1950) had already given the government power to ban meetings and organisations.
Another law made it illegal for African workers to strike, and while they were allowed to join trade unions their employers were no longer obliged to negotiate with them.
Although draconian legislation suppressed and controlled opposition organisations, alliances between organisations emerged under the ANC-led Congress Alliance and united opposition began to emerge for the first time in the mid-50s.
The battery of security laws enabled the National Party to repress the ANC's Defiance Campaign and in 1953 they secured a larger majority in the national election. With a firmer platform, they went on to implement further segregation and successfully deterred opposition.
In the late 1950s a radical breakaway party emerged called the PAC, and their activities led to confrontation with the police, strikes and riots in Cape Town. A state of emergency was declared, opposition groups banned and a crackdown on security that lead to what has become known as the 'silent sixties'.
The Silent Years
Between 1960 and 1976 apartheid dictated all aspects of life for a large proportion of Capetonians, and all opposition was silenced. The National Party imprisoned or banished many of its major opponents. Even the Liberal Party, co-founded by the author Alan Paton, was dissolved in 1968 under the Prevention of Political Interference Act that prohibited multiracial parties.
The laws were so draconian that members of the women's organisation the 'Black Sash' could only stand alone on a street wearing their sash, as two or more would have constituted an 'illegal gathering'.
The opposition movements, notably the PAC and ANC, felt they had no alternative but to turn to armed resistance. The police, however, were highly effective in suppressing their activities. Inteligence, counter-intelligence and policing were co-orcinated through the powerful Bureau of State Security (BOSS).
Further laws increased police powers. The Sabotage Act of 1962 enabled the Minister of Justice to impose house arrest. The 'ninety day' Act permitted detainment without trial, or access to a lawyer, for ninety days. A blind eye was drawn to how police treated suspects, gathered intelligence and enforced control.
Detainment without trial and deaths while in custody became more frequent, and one of Cape Town's earliest victims was the activist Looksmart Solwandle Ngudle who died in October 1963.
Robben Island in Table Bay was used by the government as a high security prison and became a reminder to Capetonians of the suppression of dissent.
The smothering effect of Apartheid regulations made it impossible for multi-racial musical groups to play together and also affected the annual carnival; however the political situation inspired writers and musicians to reflect on their experiences through the arts.
In the 1960s Prime Minister Hendrik Verwoerd pursued a policy of 'Grand Apartheid', which established 'independent tribal homelands', such as the Transkei. The plan made it possible to exclude blacks from a right to live in 'South Africa'. A rule was imposed in 1965 by which African workers had to return to their 'homeland' at the end of an employment contract, then re-apply to work in the Cape Town area. This was supposed to prevent any growth in the numbers of black 'permanent residents' in the city.
During the 1960s the South African economy grew rapidly, and while this helped keep a lid on protest, it raised the need for more black labour. The government, however, refused to issue more passes for Africans to work in Cape Town, on the grounds that the Western Cape should become a 'safe white homeland' as well as offer 'a future for coloured people'.
Black people 'endorsed out' of Cape Town were sent to 'resettlement camps' in the Eastern Cape where they lived in atrocious conditions. Within Cape Town's townships, municipal beer halls and liquor stores were opened in spite of local opposition. The sale of alcohol helped to finance the enforcement of apartheid.
Yet, in spite of the influx regulations Cape Town still grew considerably. Official figures show an increase in the 'legal' African population from 70,000 in 1960 to 160,000 in 1974, and it is estimated that there were a further 90,000 'illegals'. The springing up of more shanty towns north and south of the airport showed that apartheid was failing to achieve its aims.
Between 1972 and 1975 the government tried once more to remove African communities from the Cape by the demolition of shanty towns such as Unibel and Modderdam. Modderdam squatter camp was destroyed by two bulldozers during one week in August 1977. As residents watched their homes being razed they sang freedom songs and hymns, charged policemen and threw furniture onto the road. Some even set fire to their own shacks before the authorities could reach them.
The authorities tried - and ultimately failed - to stem the tide of migration of blacks to Cape Town by destroying squatter camps. The most well known case was the Crossroads community that developed on vacant land near the airport and stubbornly resisted eviction.
The 1976 Uprising
In July 1976 widespread violence broke out in Soweto, Johannesburg, as school children protested against the imposition of Afrikaans as the teaching medium in schools. The battles between youths and police marked the end of the 'silent years' and the beginning of a violent intensification in the struggle against apartheid.
In the weeks following the Soweto uprising, school children from Langa, Nyanga and Guguletu marched through the township streets to protest the shooting of Sowetan schoolchildren and the imposition of 'security measures' that prevented them studying at night in school buildings (children often studied at school because there was electricity and more space than at home).
When police used teargas and dogs to break up the peaceful march, it descended into a full scale riot with 36 hours of violence against shops, government buildings and beer halls. Coloured children also became involved in the struggle, visiting their peers in Guguletu to express solidarity and mock the police.
The Black Consciousness Movement grew during this time, attracting 12,000 people to a gathering in Athlone in 1976. Demonstrations tended to become violent only when the police turned up, as reflected in the Cape Flats slogan; 'Peaceful students protest, police riot'.
For one day, September 1st, the ban on outdoor meetings was lifted and one thousand African pupils marched peacefully through the city streets. Over the next few days, as coloured students tried to do the same, the police responded with teargas, beatings and birdshot (small bullets sprayed into crowds).
During 1976 a total of 128 people were killed and over 400 injured in Cape Town's urban violence, drawing both national and international attention to the situation. Some academics, welfare groups, businessmen and newspapers took a concerned stance on the authorities' repression and violence and called for more cross-racial contact, political rights and citizenship for blacks.
There were some members of the white community who joined the resistance and were themselves victims of violence. Lecturers at UCT were banned or detained, and their colleagues started a history workshop to document events in the city and try to explain them. Many whites, however, remained passive, some emigrated, others became paranoid.
Rumours spread during September that all blacks had been told to 'kill a white', which prompted whites to buy guns, patrol the streets and put armed guards at school gates.
Post '76 Reform
Following the violent protests of 1976, the government adopted a policy that combined repression and reform. The decision to impose Afrikaans as the language of education was reversed, and instead government announced the provision of free education, textbooks and larger salaries for teachers. B.J. Vorster, the prime minister, agreed that African participation was needed in township government.
In 1978, P.W. Botha became prime minister and proceeded with the apartheid blueprint of 'homelands' and influx control, but promised reform and a new constitution. As domestic and international pressure increased, Botha relaxed aspects of 'petty apartheid' such as the strict segregation of sport, thereby hoping to avoid international sanctions.
After 1976, apartheid in Cape Town's sporting and leisure activities was no longer strictly enforced. Hotels, restaurants and theatres, could apply for 'international' status enabling them to admit anyone who could pay.
In 1977, the Cape Town bus service abandoned segregation policies, hearing that the government would not protest to this if it was done discreetly. At the same time, Cape Town City Council opened its beaches to all, although neighbouring councils maintained segregation policies well into the 1980s.
Although petty apartheid was on the wane, segregation of residential locations and schooling remained firmly in place throughout the 1980s. The long-awaited new 'tricameral' constitution of 1983 gave coloureds and Asians representation in the parliamentary system, but excluded blacks and ensured continued white supremacy. Such tokenism created more anger and resentment.
Resistance in the 1980's
After the violence of 1976 there was a growing sense of impatience and indignation at the government from a broad range of critics, international and domestic.
Government attempts to 'reform' apartheid did not impress its increasingly militant opponents, who regarded reform as manipulative and refused to endorse 'tokenistic' measures. Thus, when government tried to 'unify' sport the ('non-white') South African Council on Sport (SACOS) stated that 'the children of Soweto give us a clear mandate not to cooperate in the new sports dispensation'.
Hence talks about the possibility of uniting the South African Cricket Association were abandoned. The SACOS stance was 'no normal sport in an abnormal country' and their members refused to use facilities operating under the new permit system. Their response to the government initiative was typical of a new era of hostility.
An intense culture of resistance developed in the 1980s, with schoolchildren especially active (more..). Campuses also became more radical, with university students active in protests. The End Conscription Campaign encouraged increasing numbers of whites to refuse to serve in the armed forces, even at the risk of a six year prison sentence.
Unions actively opposed segregational labour laws, and when members of such unions were dismissed, employees called strikes and boycotts of company products. Workers in several of Cape Town's factories, in particular Fatti's and Moni's pasta factory in Belville, succeeded in making small steps towards democratic representation.
At the same time, moral and active support was given to the anti-apartheid movement by Christian and Muslim bodies, especially the South African Council of Churches led by Bishop Desmond Tutu from 1978.
The activities of students, civil institutions and trade unions in Cape Town reinforced one another and the city remained in the forefront of the anti-apartheid struggle in the early 1980s.
The civics provided another base for resistance. In the seventies small organisations had developed in particular neighbourhoods to campaign for better living standards. They became known as 'civics' and fought for local causes such as better council-house maintenance or for changes in the due dates of electricity accounts.
The growth in the number of civics (there were 32 in Cape Town in 1982) and their common focus on rent increases, gave them a collective energy that was intrinsic to the formation of the United Democratic Front (UDF) led by Allan Boesak. This organisation provided powerful coordination of the various organisations engaged in the struggle against apartheid during the 1980s.
The Turning Tide
The convergence of increasing solidarity and organisation amongst political activists, created a powerful platform for coordinated grassroots action by the mid-1980s.
The prolonged depression meant that rates of unemployment were rising, especially in the 16-25 age group, and the backlog of official housing provision was rising from a figure of 46,000 homes to be built in 1980. The economic conditions fuelled a sense of desperation and rebellion, especially among the youth.
As the government tried to pacify growing resistance through superficial reforms and heavy-handed repression, so it appeared vulnerable. The declaration of the State of Emergency in 1985 was seen as a last resort and evidence that apartheid was on the ropes.
Richard Rive's novel 'Emergency Continued' noted the change in tenor from protest to violent revolt, as he describes parents assisting their children in raising barricades across roads.
In coloured areas, incidence of revolt reached a very high intensity after the 'Trojan Horse' incident in Athlone. Ten security force members hid inside large metal crates on the back of a truck, and when stones were thrown as they drove down Thornton road, they opened fire, killing three youths between the ages of 11 and 21.
The two years following the 1986 National State of Emergency brought tight control over the media, the recruitment of township policemen ('kitskonstabels') and sponsorship of conservative vigilantes. Nonetheless, the effects of international pressure, a dwindling economy and the government's lack of legitimacy meant that a critical point had been reached in national politics.
Historians argue that the impasse between government forces and their opponents was the very reason why a negotiated settlement became possible. Although government gave no hint of it, secret talks were underway with the ANC, and Mandela was being prepared for freedom, with secret trips around the city including a stroll along the beach at Sea Point.
By the end of the 1980s, active opposition to apartheid was widespread across Cape Town. Capetonians recognised that apartheid threatened to end in bloody civil war, and that international sanctions were causing the economy to stagnate, with the prospect of complete isolation ahead.
Increasingly, demonstrations featured people of all backgrounds. August 1989 saw a protest 'picnic' on Bloubergstrand, a 'whites-only' beach. It was a mixed gathering of families and friends from every neighbourhood, playing and enjoying the beach while expressing solidarity against segregation. Police arrived with quirts (long sticks) to try and dispel the merry crowd. On another occasion protesters, including Desmond Tutu, gathered at the Strand near Somerset West. Here the police cordoned off the beach for 'police dog-training'.
In June of that year, 2,000 people walked from Rondebosch Common to District Six in support of an 'open city' - a concept recently advocated by the mayor and councillors. David Kramer, whose popular musical recalling the life and demise of District Six had just been showing, entertained the procession. No-one was hurt as permission was given for the march.
In August 1989, the pro-ANC Mass Democratic Movement (MDM), the successor to the banned UDF, initiated a new protest campaign against remaining social segregation. Unlike the UDF, the MDM had the support of COSATU (Congress of South African Trade Unions). In one MDM protest clerics, COSATU members and academics gathered peacefully to demand the right to protest, but police set upon the crowd, beating and injuring protestors, using teargas, quirts and water cannon.
On Sept 13th 1989 a march from Parliament to St George's cathedral, led by Desmond Tutu, Mayor Gordon Oliver, Allan Boesak, Sheik Nazeem Mohammed and Jakes Gerwal, was supported by 30,000 people of all ages and races. A one minute silence was held at the city hall for those killed in recent violence. To cries of 'long live the mayor' Gordon Oliver said 'today Cape Town has won. Today we all have the freedom of the city'. This event had huge practical and symbolic significance and in the following days similar events were held elsewhere in the country.
Despite disagreements and tensions between liberals and radicals, opposition to apartheid had gained considerable support in Cape Town. In the whites-only general election of September 1989, the liberal Democratic Party (the Progressive Federal Party's successor) won all the city, southern and Atlantic suburbs - showing that support for the regime lay only in the northern suburbs. Nationally the government lost support both to liberal and conservative parties.
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