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The Early Twentieth Century
(page 1)
On 31 May 1910, the unification of South Africa brought to an end the old colonial certainties. Previously Cape Town stood as an Imperial Capital of The Cape Colony. That colony was now simply a Province of the new Union of South Africa. The grand parliament buildings in Cape Town became the legislative capital of the new state, but Pretoria was made the administrative capital.

It was soon clear that real power and influence would no longer lie in Cape Town but in the Transvaal, the old Afrikaans republics that included the economic centre of the Rand (the gold seam at Johannesburg) and the political capital at Pretoria. Furthermore, Durban's port was proving more profitable than Cape Town's due to its easy access to the Transvaal.

Losing economic and political influence, Cape Town promoted itself as a cultural centre and worked to define South African identity in terms of its Cape Town roots - the arrival of van Riebeeck and the Imperial era.

Divisions in Cape Town society became very plain during World War 1 and were compounded by a depression in the 1920s. In the new era Cape Town was increasingly subject to the hardline, racially-minded politics of the Transvaal, and racist attitudes hardened.

Although not as swiftly as Johannesburg, Cape Town became an industrial city as the port expanded and motor cars, electricity and cinema arrived. Electricity reached people's homes in the 1930s and the Table Bay power station was built in 1936 bringing a significant increase to Cape Town's revenues.

Images of the city in the early twentieth century are characterised by the pier built in 1925. But demands for improved city infrastructure and new docks led to the demolishing of the pier in 1940 to make way for a massive land reclamation scheme which extended the city, created land for freeways and wharfs for the modern port.

In the process concrete replaced the old seafront and these developments marked a new, disconnected and imposing era. Capetonians came to associate the pier with a pre-apartheid Cape Town when social relations were more easy going, the pace of life slower and the town was by the sea.
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In this period of Cape History:



Mother City


Growth and Control


Bibliography & Contacts


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