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In 1948 the National Party led by Rev Dr DF Malan came to power with a manifesto of apartheid (separate development). Although discriminatory policies already existed, this was to be a systematic categorisation and segregation of the population, enshrined in law, with the white group accorded privilege and power. His belief in racial superiority is expressed in the following quotation:

'We Afrikaners are not the work of man but the creation of God. It is to us that millions of semi-barbarous blacks look for guidance, justice and the Christian way of life'

Legislation was soon enacted that required all residents to register their race - a particularly significant law given the very mixed heritage of so many Capetonians. The National Party intended to segregate whites and coloureds and expel all Africans from the Western Cape to 'homelands'. Under the 'Group Areas Act' suburbs of the city were zoned according to race; inevitably the privileged and desirable areas were zoned 'white'.

Apartheid entered the Post Office in the form of separate queues in 1949. In the same year the Prohibitions of Mixed Marriages Act was published and in 1950 the Immorality Act. These acts prevented coloureds or Indians having sexual relations with whites, in the same way that Africans were already prohibited. Such rules brought heartbreak - one 20 year old coloured youth who could not legally marry his pregnant white girlfriend committed suicide.

In 1950 the Population Registration Act officially divided South Africa into 'White', 'Coloured', 'Asian' or 'Native' (African). It was mandatory for all Capetonians over 16 years to carry Identity cards specifying their racial group. Those who were previously able to enjoy an ambiguous racial status were assigned a race, and given no choice in this. In a subsequent act 'Chinese' and 'Indians' were declared subgroups of the category 'Coloured', as were some 'Malays' but only if they lived within particular areas (Wynberg, Simon's Town or Bellville).

Later one could appeal against one's racial classification, and if one could not prove one's ancestry then a physical examination of hair, nails and eyelids was undertaken. There were many controversial cases in Cape Town, with some Coloureds seeking to prove they were white. In one absurd case a family was split as one twin was re-classified white while her sister remained coloured.

From 1951 a permit system was established that controlled property transfers and changes of occupancy from members of one 'race' to another. This had serious effects on the businesses of many African and coloured shop-owners and artisans, who were suddenly prevented from operating in 'white' areas. In the early 1950s there was increasing pressure on Capetonians to move voluntarily into areas designated to their racial classification, as the authorities tried to avoid having to use force.

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In this period of Cape History:



Petty Apartheid



The Silent Years

Influx Controls

1976 Uprising

Post '76 Reform


Turning Tide

Mass Action

Bibliography & Contacts


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