Cape Town History

Cape Town Brief History: 1910-2013


Bushmen, History of Cape Town and South Africa


The Western Cape is a wonderland of beauty and a landscape shaped by powerful natural and political forces. It's turbulent history lives through its heritage, resonating in the people, places and stories that tell the tales of the past.
In the decade of democracy following the birth of the "rainbow nation" looking back along that road makes for a fascinating adventure.

"I was not born with a hunger to be free. I was born free..."
Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom, 1994.

A world without us to people and pastures, about 280 million years ago (mya), Pangea emerged from the Ice Age. The outlines of the southern African coast formed around 140 mya. Eruptions below the earth's surface about 290 mya caused rock buckling that formed the Cape Fold Mountains. About 150 mya some sediment was eroded away, leaving Table Mountain isolated.
20 000 years ago Homo sapiens were widely dispersed throughout southern Africa: The world without us had become the world of the San. The 'pastoral revolution' began 2 000 years ago when the Khoikhoi acquired sheep and cattle and grazing territory had to be owned.
Under pressure from San stock raiders the Khoikhoi migrated south. When the first Europeans arrived at the Cape in the 16th and 17th centuries, the Khoikhoi were the dominant society.


290 mya Cape Fold Mountains formed.
150 mya Table Mountain is formed.
140 mya Super-continent Pangea breaks up into separate continents.
5 mya Australopithecus, the southern ape, lives.
100 000 ya Anatomically modern humans live in caves in southern Cape.
14 000 ya San hunter-gatherers widely dispersed across southern Africa.
2 000 ya Khoikhoi pastoralists live alongside the San; move south to the Cape coastline.One obstacle to the freedom and characteristic impedance

1910, Union of South Africa established, incorporating the Cape colony; African delegation travels in vain to London to protest against exclusion and the colour bar.The Union of South Africa, including the old Boer republics of Transvaal and Orange River and the two former British colonies of Cape Colony and Natal formed. 
1912, South African Native National Congress (SANNC, later ANC) is founded
1913, Natives' Land Act is passed, enforcing the separation of whites and Africans in the rural areas
1914-18, World War I: 12 452 South Africans die
1918, CJ Langenhoven writes Die Stem van Suid-Afrika
1923, Natives (Urban Areas) Act extends segregation to towns
1925, Afrikaans is adopted as an official language, in addition to English
1936, Property-owning Cape Africans are removed from the common voters' role
1939-45, World War II: 9 000 South Africans die; large numbers of Africans seek work in cities & towns
1948, Apartheid becomes official policy of government. The Apartheid official government policy, the continuation of the colonial model of segregation, racial domination and privileges of the white minority. The Group Areas Act of 1950 allowed the forced removal of "colored people" of their homes, and adopted the Africans by the laws controlling their movements were despised throughout the country.  Apartheid ruled and divided a nation, but the resistance was going on, and no amount of legislation, reform or repression could stop him. The protest ended in tragedy.
1960, Anti-Pass Law campaign: 30,000 Africans march from Langa to Cape Town. When police killed 69 peaceful demonstrators in the massacre at Sharpeville. The murders caused 30 000 protesters march from Langa, Cape Town. The government responded by banning the ANC and PAC. Peaceful demonstrations had been exiled to the armed resistance.  ANC & PAC banned: leaders flee into exile; military wings established
1964, Nelson Mandela and comrades imprisoned on Robben Island
1966, District Six declared a white area under the Group Areas Act
1976, Soweto uprising spreads to schools in W Cape, Students in Soweto rebelled against the use of Afrikaans in black schools.
1980, Widespread revolt against apartheid in W Cape and across country, saw a rash of resistance.
1983, United Democratic Front (UDF) is launched in Mitchells Plain, Cape
1984, Desmond Tutu is awarded Nobel Peace Prize
1986, Pass system & influx control abolished; rate of African urbanisation increases
1990, ANC and other political parties unbanned and political prisoners released
1991, Formal multi-party negotiations begin to provide for a new constitution & democracy
1993, Nelson Mandela awarded Nobel Peace Prize jointly with FW de Klerk
1994, South Africa's first democratic election
1994, Nelson Mandela becomes the first black president of South Africa 
2013, Nelson Mandela dies