|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
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
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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