Division in the Early Twentieth Century
| The search for cheap labour,
combined with the national 'civilised labour' policies and the domination of
light industries meant that employment conditions were more favourable for
certain groups of the population.
Whites, Africans and women were employed over coloured men, and
coloured youth was excluded from participating in apprenticeship schemes on the
grounds of insufficient education.
The Depression years of the 1920s exacerbated this trend. Most
skilled work was performed by white men, with coloured men practicing less
well-paid semi-skilled work. Thus the correlation between poverty and colour
grew, and with this educational gaps.
Discrimination was expressed in many other ways. In 1920 a
bronze war memorial was erected in Adderley Street to the memory of the
soldiers who fought at Delville Wood - all of whom were white - but only a
plaque was put up in the City Hall in memory of the coloured men who died in
German East Africa and Palestine, and no city memorial was erected to Blacks
who participated in the war effort.
It is evident from such distinctions that even in the commemoration of the
First World War, which was an expression of South African nationalism,
representing a fight for freedom and the cause of civilisation, it was taken
for granted that racial distinctions would be made and more attention paid to
white lives than others.
The tide of segregation extended to the churches, in part
because economic differentials were separating races geographically, but also
as a policy that it was preferable to create separate churches. Increasingly
public and leisure facilities were segregated. Economic differences also meant
that public transport was segregated by the cost of different
|Discrimination in the 1940s
| Although racial discrimination
was not applied in the uniform and absolute way that would come under
apartheid, nevertheless policies implemented in the early twentieth century
were already shaping a society based on racial discrimination. Policies were
designed to provide better opportunities to whites and to limit the aspirations
The education policy provided free, compulsory and good quality
education up to junior secondary level to whites. In 1945 this provision was
made to coloureds, but not to Africans. The only high schools available to
blacks (37 in the whole Cape Province by 1950) were run by churches, and even
those able to gain an education were faced with huge restrictions on employment
in the form of the job reservation policy for whites.
The only employer that was theoretically open to all was the
Municipality, although the highest position occupied by a black Capetonian (a
coloured) was senior clerk. It was not considered appropriate that coloured or
African people should be in more senior positions than whites.
Education and employment policies combined to ensure a
reduction in the number of whites in menial work (domestic service and general
labourers) from around 30% to 3% since the 1890s. White males still dominated
in commerce, government, industry and in the major professions.
By mid-century white women and a few coloured and Indian men
were beginning to gain access to some professions. The options for black men to
enter the lower middle classes were limited to becoming a teacher or a
Most employed women worked in domestic or laundry work,
although opportunities in factory work for white and coloured women were
increasing. Nursing and teaching offered women the best salary and status.
By 1941 segregated workplace facilities had been given legal
backing, and racially exclusive municipal housing was being built in areas like
Kalk Bay and Hout Bay. Urban housing policy was developed that encouraged the
trend toward racial segregation.
Whites were given preferential access to central suburbs such
as Plumstead and Maitland, through the use of restrictive title deeds. As
working class whites became wealthier through the favourable employment policy,
they moved out of areas like District Six to predominately white areas, so
increasing segregation in the city.
Opposition to racial division remained divided and marginal to
mainstream politics. Some liberals wanted equal rights for blacks immediately,
whereas others favoured 'continual adjustments' meaning that locations should
stay but should be upgraded to 'model villages'.
Marxism had some influence on liberal thought, with Trotskyite
thinking influencing the New Era Fellowship (later to become the Non-European
Unity Movement), and Leninist thinking within the Communist party, which
included trade unionist Ray Alexander, UCT lecturer Jack Simons and social
activist Cissie Gool. Their circles of friends held inter-racial parties in the
face of opposing trends in the rest of society. These events are captured in
the novels about the 1940s by Richard Rive, Reshard Gool and Andre Brink. These
activists, however, remained marginal to mainstream politics.
Use the Back Key in your browser to return to
© www.capetown.at 2008. You may print this
article for personal use; if for reproduction please acknowledge
'www.www.capetown.at.co.za'. You may not use this material for any electronic
media except with written permission. www.capetown.at accepts no responsibility
for inaccuracies or the work of service providers.
· Culture ·