Cape Town in the Early Twentieth Century
| By 1946 the
population of Cape Town had reached approximately half a million. According to
the census, just under half these were white, with an almost equal number of
coloured people. African and Asian residents made up about 8 percent of the
official figures. However, those living in unlicensed squatter areas on the
Cape Flats were rarely counted in the census, and their numbers were estimated
at between 50,000 and 150,000 people.
Due to rising numbers of immigrants, whites became a minority
for the first time since the mid 19th century. The largest group were coloured
people but rising numbers of blacks were driven to the Cape by rural poverty.
Many 'poor white' Afrikaners were also settling in areas like
District Six among West Indians, Malays, Indians and Jewish shopkeepers.
Portuguese and Italian immigrants shared Catholicism with other
Capetonians, and were easily assimilated. Italians worked in the fishing and
chefing industries, and introduced Capetonians to crayfish, calamari and sole;
the only fish previously eaten was snoek. It was more difficult for Greeks who
were isolated by church and language.
Other than Western Europeans, who were favoured by immigration
policy, Jews were the largest group of immigrants. Poor families settled in
Woodstock, District Six or Salt River, moving later to Gardens, Tamboerskloof,
Oranjezicht or Sea Point. They retained much of their cultural traditions, the
strength of which was evident in the establishment of Yiddish theatre, press
and three Hebrew bookshops. They valued education highly, especially in
medicine and the law.
Although white immigrants benefitted from more opportunities
than any coloured or black new-comers, there were prejudices toward immigrant
groups. For example, Jews were stunned to find posters on the streets stating
'Kaffirs and Jews indecently assault white girls'.
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