The Statesman’s Yearbook Online

edited by Dr Barry Turner


Image courtesy of wikipedia


Cape Town, capital of the Western Cape province, lies on the Atlantic coast at the southern tip of Africa and is one of the continent's most popular tourist destinations. Set against the backdrop of cloud-draped Table Mountain, the Mother City—as Cape Town is nicknamed—is famous for its thriving cultural scene, abundant vineyards and golden beaches.


The ancestors of the Khoisan peoples lived in the Western Cape 2,000 years before António de Saldanha became the first European to land in the sixteenth century. In 1652 a Dutchman, Jan van Reibeeck, came ashore to build a fort and establish trading links with the local Khoikhoi tribe. Many of those who landed with him settled as burghers or farmers in the fertile region.

During the Napoleonic Wars the Cape was defended against the British fleet by a Franco-Dutch force. After the British defeated the Dutch at Bloubergstrand in 1806 they took control of Cape Town and the surrounding area, incorporating them into the British Empire in 1814. When Britain abolished the slave trade, many Afrikaners (an ethnic group descended from European settlers) embarked on the Great Trek between 1834 and 1840 to create their own homelands.

In 1854 a parliament was established and in 1867 Cape Town obtained full municipal government status. Roads and a railway line were built and the Alfred Dock was opened in 1870. The discovery of gold and diamonds prompted a surge in new arrivals to the city. Soon after, tensions between the British colonial administration and the Boer republics of the South African (or Transvaal) Republic and the Orange Free State escalated into the Second Boer War (1899–1902). General Sir Redvers Buller arrived in Cape Town with British reinforcements in 1899, intending to embark on an offensive following the course of the railway line out of the city to Pretoria via Bloemfontein. After a series of devastating reverses and costly victories, by Sept. 1900 the British had control of Pretoria (capital of the Transvaal) and Bloemfontein (capital of the Orange Free State). However, there were two more years of debilitating guerilla attacks by the Boers before the British annexed both of the Boer Republics. The UK established the Union of South Africa (later the Republic of South Africa) in 1910, with Cape Town as its legislative capital.

The years after the Second World War saw increased urbanization and industrial growth. In 1948 the National Party won national elections on a platform of racial segregation (apartheid). Once multi-racial suburbs in Cape Town were either purged of 'unlawful residents' or demolished. For instance, District Six saw over 60,000 residents forcibly removed to desolate, segregated towns and townships on the Cape Flats, far from the city. The legacy of apartheid is still apparent, with the white population largely to be found in the city centre and the mountainside inner suburbs, while non-whites make up a large proportion of the satellite townships.

The government declared a state of emergency as demonstrations broke out in Cape Town and across the country in the 1960s. The African National Congress (ANC)-led anti-apartheid movement was banned, protests made illegal and opposition leaders exiled or jailed—most famously Nelson Mandela, who was sentenced to life in prison on Robben Island, which sits in the city's Table Bay.

Resistance nonetheless continued and Cape Town, along with other cities, witnessed mass demonstrations that brought global attention to the conflict. In 1989 over 40,000 people took to the streets of Cape Town—led by the city's Archbishop, Desmond Tutu—and within a year Nelson Mandela was released from prison, a critical move in the ending of apartheid.


Cape Town lies about 30 miles (50 km) north of the Cape of Good Hope at the convergence of the Atlantic and Indian oceans at the southern tip of Africa. The city centre is bounded by Table Bay and by surrounding mountains, while many of the city's suburbs lie on the large plain called the Cape Flats, extending eastwards for over 50 km.

Cape Town is the second most populous city in South Africa, with the metropolitan area stretching over 2,454.7 sq. km. The population at the 2011 census was 3,740,025, being predominantly Coloured (42%) and Black African (39%).


Cape Town is the provincial capital of the Western Cape and South Africa's legislative capital (Bloemfontein is the judicial capital and Pretoria the executive and de facto capital).

The City Council, the legislative body responsible for governing the metropolitan municipality of the City of Cape Town, comprises 221 councillors, half of whom are ward councillors with the other half elected by proportional representation. The Council reports to a 28-member executive council presided over by a city manager and an executive mayor.

The current executive mayor, Patricia de Lille, was born in 1951 in Beaufort West, a small town in the Western Cape. A laboratory technician who became involved in trade union politics, in 1989 she was elected to the National Executive Committee of the Pan Africanist Movement (PAM) and headed a delegation in the constitutional negotiations preceding the country's first democratic elections in 1994. In 2003 de Lille established the Independent Democrats, who campaigned on a platform of opposition to corruption. Since becoming mayor in 2011, she has focused on poverty reduction. Her administration is subject to intense scrutiny at the national level as Western Cape remains the only South African province not governed by the ANC and Cape Town is considered by some as a 'last bastion of white rule'.


Cape Town is the economic hub of the Cape, accounting for 71% of the province's economy. It produces over 10% of the entire nation's GDP and is South Africa's second wealthiest city, after Johannesburg.

With over 1.5m. international tourists each year, tourism accounts for 10% of the province's GDP. The 2010 football World Cup gave a boost to the already thriving real estate and construction sectors. Small, medium and micro enterprises—which together account for 50% of the city's output—are leading the development of the IT-sector, which is growing at an annual rate of 8.5%.


Public transport options including buses, taxis, commuter trains and minibuses. Low-cost shared minibus taxis cover most of the city with an informal network of routes. The IRT bus offers services from the airport to the city centre and the MyCiti service travels two loops covering a wide inner-city area. Cape Town International Airport, the second largest in the country, is 20 km east of the city centre and offers direct flight to most cities within South Africa as well as international services.



All year-round are festivals celebrating the region's wine, music and culture. The Cape Town International Jazz Festival, the fourth-largest jazz festival in the world, is held each spring and attracts tens of thousands of visitors. Cape Town was named World Design Capital for 2014 by the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design.

Places of interest

The city lies at the foot of Table Mountain, part of Table Mountain National Park. Nelson Mandela's place of incarceration for 18 years, Robben Island, is today a World Heritage Site. The Castle of Good Hope in the city centre is the oldest surviving colonial building. A star-shaped fort built by the Dutch East India Company between 1666 and 1679, it was the centre of civilian, administrative and military life. It now houses a military museum and part of the William Fehr Collection—a display of furniture, paintings and antique china exemplifying the lifestyle and tastes of Cape Town's first colonial settlers.

The 'Historical Mile' provides a scenic route along the coast and goes past the 17th-century Posthuys. The V&A Waterfront, set against the city's Victorian-era harbour, incorporates renovated period buildings, museums, theatres, pubs and restaurants along with panoramic views of Table Mountain.

The Bo-Kaap suburb is famed for its brightly coloured, flat-roofed houses and picturesque mosques and shrines. Previously known as the Malay Quarter, it originally housed slaves brought from Malaysia, Java and Indonesia in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Company's Gardens in the city centre is home to the Slave Lodge, built in 1679 on behalf of the Dutch East India Company to house thousands of slaves and later served as the Supreme Court and as government offices, before being converted into a cultural history museum in 1966. Also to be found in the Gardens is the South African Museum, founded in 1825. It houses one and a half million items of scientific importance, including fossils and ancient tools.


Principal newspapers published in Cape Town include the English-language Cape Times, Cape Argus and Daily Voice, and Die Burger, the largest daily Afrikaans-language newspaper.


Aerial View



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