Peoples of Cape
'Bantu' is a
generic name covering many black tribes. Bantu migration into South Africa
began in the 3rd century AD with the occupation of the fertile eastern and
coastal stretches of the country, where they came into contact with the
The Xhosa people are a Bantu tribe that settled along the
south coast a thousand kilometers east of Cape Town. They encountered European
and English settlers along their western border, the Great Fish River, from the
seventeenth century onwards. Their ability to resist Afrikaners encouraged the
Great Trek away from the
Labour migration of Xhosa to Cape Town began in the
mid-eighteenth century and
measures were taken to control the
Black population. Nevertheless migration continued in the
twentieth century and a
township was created at Langa.
In the early twentieth century black people became more
politicised in the face of
This discrimination became systematic and ruthless under the
apartheid system, against which a long
struggle ensued until liberation was achieved in the
new South Africa.
|The San People
For perhaps one
hundred thousand years, until the nineteenth century,
the San lived by hunting and gathering in
small nomadic 'bands'. They concentrated in the mountains after contact with
the Khoekhoe (see below) and later the Bantu.
As European settlement advanced the San were joined by
Khoekhoe refugees. As the trekboers advanced they attacked the
San and drove them deeper into the mountains.
Today there are no distinct communities of San left,
although their 'cousins' the Bushmen are still evident in the Kalahari, Namibia
Khoekhoe means 'men of men'. They spread
out across Southern Africa, and migrating south 2,000 years ago brought
pastoralism (animal herding) to the Cape.
By the husbandry of sheep and cattle they enjoyed a stable,
balanced diet and could live in larger groups than the San. They grazed their
herds in the fertile valleys across the region until the 3rd century AD when
they encountered the advancing Bantu and retreated into
more arid areas.
The migratory bands living around Cape Town came into
contact with European explorers
and merchants from 1500, these encounters led to
although the British made
attempts to develop closer relations, although this included
The Khoekhoe at
the Cape grazed traditional migratory routes. When the Dutch East India
Company enclosed their grazing land for farms,
war broke out.
Over the following century the Khoe were steadily driven off
their land and exposed to smallpox by trekboers. Eventually their
independence and culture were completely destroyed.
group of people living in Cape Town today are known as the 'coloured'
community. The term refers to people of mixed racial origin.
In the early years of European settlement there was
inter-racial marriage and European procreation by
slaves (most of whom were from Asia).
Soldiers and sailors also had a reputation for fathering
children at the Slave Lodge. In the outlying districts there were offspring
from relations between trekboers
In the nineteenth century the
British categorised such people as
'Coloureds' and 'Malays' (see below). In reality the group was never
homogenous, and there were, and remain, marked differences of identity. Many
coloureds held positions as skilled artisans, and some as professionals. Those
owning property could vote, but many coloured people lived in slums.
Coloured willingness to fight for the British in the
South African War and the
First World War was snubbed and they struggled to gain
equality with whites
throughout the twentieth century. However, attempts to forge an
identity or united political
movement failed. Similarly Coloured protest to apartheid discrimination in
the 1950s also became
Although coloured people held a higher status than bantu
under apartheid, still they suffered
discrimination, particularly the humiliation of
forced removals from their homes to
'coloured areas'. In the 1980s they became active in the
struggle for democracy, particularly
in the United Democratic
| Among the
slaves there was a strong
Islamic influence, led
initially by political prisoners from Malaysia. Over the years this religious
community became known as the 'Cape Malays'.
The Cape Malay helped to pioneer not only Islam at the Cape but also Afrikaans
and traditional Cape cuisine and music.
The area of 'Bo-Kaap' in Cape Town is
associated with this group that retains a strong sense of identity to this
When the Dutch
East India Company established a trading
station at the Cape they had no intention of allowing it to become a
colony. However, as demand for food exceeded supply they allowed Europeans to
From this European community developed an independent people
at the Cape, who regarded the Cape as their home and, when the British took
over, distinguished themselves from the English by the name 'Afrikaners'.
In reaction to British liberalism they developed their own
culture and many left on the Great
Trek to establish new republics beyond British control.
In due course the British and these independent republics
went to war in the South African
During the early twentieth century Afrikaners asserted their
politics and language in the newly formed Union of South
Right-wing Afrikaner nationalism led to the election of the
National Party in 1948 with its policy of apartheid that sought racial purity and
Afrikaner dominance over South Africa. FW de
Klerk finally led Afrikaners to embrace universal democracy in 1990.
Britain has had
close links with the Cape since the first days of the
English East India Company.
British rule began in 1795. During the eighteenth century
British influence established a strong liberal tradition that characterises
Cape Town to this day.
See the History Section 'the British Era'.
significant immigration of Jews to the Cape came with the
diamond and gold boom of the late
Jews continued to migrate to the Cape during the twentieth
century in spite of discrimination during the early years (more..)
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