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A Brief History of Western Cape

A brief history of Western Cape brought to you by Conference Venues South Africa including The Colonial Period, The Khoi-San

Conference Venues Western Cape

Traces of the tools of early stone age hunter-gatherers found in the area of present day Western Cape indicate that this area was inhabited by prehistoric people as much as 600 000 years ago. Most well known of these prehistoric hunter-gatherer is probably the the San which relied almost entirely on what the seashore had to provide for their food. About 2000 years ago the San was displaced by the Khoikhoi from the north, bringing with them their herds of cattle and sheep. By the time the first Europeans settled into the Table Bay area the Khoikhoi was the dominant tribe in the area.

The first European settlement in the Western Cape area was in the form of a supply station established in1652 by the Dutch East India Company at the newly christened Cape of Good Hope. This supply station quickly evolved into a colonial settlement. With the growth of the settlement the Khoi-San was driven away, and slaves had to be imported from Madagascar, India, Ceylon, Malaya, and Indonesia to help build the colonial settlement.

By the early 18th century the Western Cape Khoikhoi population had entirely disintegrated, and the influx of German and French religious refugees swelled the European population. At that time slavery had become the economic backbone of the colony.

In order to establish this strategic sea route to the east, Britain quickly grabbed Western Cape in 1795. This was not welcomed by the Calvinist Dutch Burghers but for the large Muslim Slave population this was good news as the British soon ordered the abolition of slavery. The British also allowed freedom of religion resulting in the first Mosque built in Dorp Street in the Bo-Kaap.

By the 19th century Western Cape had a Seaport of considerable significance and department stores, banks and insurance company buildings became apparent everywhere. Victoria road was built from City to Sea Point and a Suburban railway line to Wynberg laid. As slavery was abolished convict labor had to be imported from the colonial frontier in the Eastern Cape to build the city.

Western Cape became the legislative capital of the union in 1910. By 1945, the increasing industrialization had attracted an influx of black workers which were housed in the locations of Guguletu and Nyanga. Three years later the National Party came to power, and they introduced a policy that favored coloureds over blacks for employment.

The Langa township of Western Cape became a stronghold of the Pan Africanist Congress. On April 8, 1960 the PAC organized a peaceful anti-pass demonstration in Western Cape. The police opposed the demonstration killing three demonstrators and wounding many. As a result of this incident the government declared a state of emergency and consequently anti-apartheid groups such as the PAC & ANC was banned. In 1966, the government introduced the group areas act. As a result of this act coloured communities were removed from district six to the desolate Cape Flats. Here, gangsterism took root which is still prevelant today in the Cape Flats.

In 1986, the government scrapped influx control and blacks poured into Western Cape seeking employment and erecting shanty towns. The influx was so great that Western Cape soon became one of the fasting growing cities in the world. In 1990 Mandela was released and soon a non-racial democracy was established in South Africa.


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