www.capetown.at Roddy Bray's Guide to Cape Town  
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The Early 20th Century
Introduction Mother City Division
Growth and Control Conclusion Bibliography & Contacts

Cape Town had grown rapidly at the end of the British Era. Her population was very diverse, and included a significant proportion of 'Coloured' and African peoples as well as Afrikaans and English speaking whites.

In the years 1910 - 1948 the city continued to grow and took on a modern appearance, but the influence of new laws and old prejudices led to discrimination that separated and stratified the population on racial lines.


Mother City
In the new Union of South Africa, Cape Town was the seat of parliament but real economic and political power was held in the Transvaal, a thousand miles north-east.

Through monuments and new institutions Cape Town asserted itself as a cultural centre of South Africa, the 'Mother City' of the nation.


Dutch arriving at the Cape
By 1946 the population of Cape Town had reached approximately half a million, of which whites were less than half.

Economic hardship and racial discrimination encouraged policies that favoured whites; this created economic and cultural differences that steadily split the population along racial lines.

Immigrants, coloured and black groups struggled to define their identity and political response to this discrimination.

Meanwhile Afrikaner Nationalism grew stronger in Cape Town and across South Africa, leading to a growing right-wing movement.


Cape Coloured People
Growth and Control

With increasing migration and an economic depression, conditions of absolute poverty developed in the inner-city and in shanty towns on the outskirts of the city.

Poverty and discrimination led to crime, social breakdown and the spread of disease in the poorest areas. Welfare organisations developed to try to address these needs.

Urban planners cleared slums and built townships to control the growing population and divide the city into separate racial areas.

A great land reclamation project dramatically extended Cape Town's Foreshore and created the modern Docks, but destroyed the city's waterfront.


The Docks and Foreshore

In the early twentieth century Cape Town lost its political power and its depressed economy did not keep up with continuous migration to the city.

Racial policies eclipsed liberalism and although parts of Cape Town were still racially mixed in 1948 and race relations relatively harmonious, the city was already far along the road of segregation that was to be enforced across the country by the apartheid regime.


Cape Town and Table Bay

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