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Migration to Cape Town in the Early Twentieth Century
Migration to the Peninsula increased dramatically during the Second World War as although previously restricted by the non-issue of permits (as Cape Town was declared a 'closed city'), these rules were relaxed during the war. Despite the growth of industry in this period, there was insufficient employment and the numbers of the very poor grew.

The informal squatter settlements of Windermere, Epping Forest and Blouvlei grew to over 20,000 inhabitants each. Parliament debate on the terrible living conditions in these areas prompted a decision to open a 'reception depot' in Langa which was to include 'a native labour bureau, barracks, fumigating chamber, deverminising facilities, clinic and isolation ward'.

Three councillors, Sacks, Gool and Kahn protested this scheme arguing that the natives wished to be treated on the same terms as other Cape Town residents. Their views were not supported and the depot opened in 1945, and a further council decision was made to repatriate all unregistered Africans due to the housing crisis.

Following the war, white opinion on the control of migration to Cape Town was mixed. Many followed a liberal line that stood for the inclusion of Africans in the city's wartime 'new deal', yet this raised questions of what should be done short of a complete social and economic restructuring of South Africa.

Land tenure thus remained haphazard. Some new settlers bought their land and paid it off in installments and in 1945 parliament passed a bill to give more security to some Cape Flats squatters. However in the same year the central government took control of housing across the country with the aim of enforcing segregation.

Influx control, which had been relaxed during the war, was reinstated and required all Africans (Bantu) coming to the Cape from the Transkei to have a 'pass'. While 'Cape' Africans did not need passes to move about their province, they were required to produce copies of 'work-seeker' permits and employment status when moving around. These laws did not apply to women. The authorities were able to enforce these rules under the Natives Urban Areas Act of 1923.

The government considered 'the mixing of coloured people and natives one of the most serious aspects of 'the problem' (of shanty housing), and decried those who had built their own homes as a 'dissolute and lawless conglomeration of coloured and native persons', desperately poor and of 'the lowest cultural category'. Their presence was associated with the supply of drink at shebeens (illegal bars). In reality many families were struggling to survive and live with dignity in conditions of absolute poverty.


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