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Cape Town Founded - History

Cape Town Founded - History



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Cape Town South Africa was founded by the surgeon of a Dutch ship- Jan van Reibeck. He goes ashore with 70 men.

A Brief History of Cape Town South Africa

The first colonists to establish the history of Cape Town, South Africa were the Dutch in the 17th century. Additionally, these colonists were employees of the Dutch East India Company. Therefore, they had come to Cape Town to establish a way-station for ships traveling to the Dutch East Indies.

The Dutch imported slaves from Madagascar and Indonesia. The slaves were needed to speed up the expansion of the settlement. As a result, these imported slaves are the ancestors of the current inhabitants of Cape Town. Therefore, the importation of these slaves laid the foundation for the city’s present day multi-ethnic population.


Cape Colony and Cape Town

The Cape Colony was a Dutch and later British colony at the southern tip of Africa, with Cape Town as its capital and largest city. The region was originally inhabited by the San and Khoikhoi peoples (known together as Khoisan), who were nomadic hunters and pastoralists, and by Bantu-speaking Africans. Europeans first reached the Cape region in 1488, when the Portuguese navigator Bartolomeu Dias (ca. 1450–1500, also spelled Diaz) rounded what he named the Cape of Good Hope. The Portuguese did not establish any permanent settlement, but used the Cape as a stopping place on their way to India and East Africa.

European settlement began in 1652, when Jan van Riebeeck (1619–1677), in the employ of the Dutch East India Company, founded Cape Town as a permanent supply station linking the Netherlands with its colonies in Southeast Asia. Khoisan were recruited as laborers for the settlement, but the Dutch also imported slaves from Indonesia and other parts of Asia. Intermingling among these peoples and the European settlers created a population of mixed race, known in South Africa as "colored" people, in addition to the European and African populations.

Dutch, as well as French Huguenot, settlement increased and the European population at the Cape reached one thousand by 1745. By this time many settlers began moving away from Cape Town, and established farms further into the interior of Africa. These early pioneers, known as trekboers, lived independently but often came into conflict with the indigenous African population. Some of the French Huguenot settlers were instrumental in establishing a wine industry near Cape Town, which still flourishes.

Events in Europe had a significant effect on the later colonization of the Cape region. As a result of the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, Britain occupied the Cape Colony in 1795 and acquired it from the Dutch in 1806, renaming it the Cape of Good Hope Colony. British settlers brought a different language and legal system to the Cape and abolished slavery, to the dissatisfaction of the original Dutch settlers. In 1835 another group of Dutch Boers (meaning "farmers") left the Cape on a long migration, or trek, into the interior of Africa, much as the earlier trekboers had done. This movement, known as the Great Trek, resulted in the formation of independent Boer republics in interior South Africa. British settlers also expanded their territory eastward, which brought them into a series of wars with the indigenous Xhosa people.

British development of the colony and of Cape Town continued, especially after the annexation of the important diamond-producing region of Kimberley in 1880. The colony had expanded in size to encompass over half the area of present-day South Africa, had become self-governing in 1872, and was one of the most important British colonies in Africa. In 1910, after the defeat of the Boer republics in the Boer War, the Cape became one of the original provinces in the Union of South Africa. Since 1994 the former Cape Province has been divided into several smaller provinces, but Cape Town remains one of the most important cities in Africa.


Cape Town Founded - History

Human communities had lived in the Cape Peninsula and Western Cape long before the beginning of the Christian era, surviving by hunting, fishing and gathering edible plants and roots. They were the ancestors of the Khoisan peoples of modern times - the Bushmen (San) and the Hottentot (Khoikhoi).

The Bushmen were hunter-gatherers who lived in small, loosely knit groups of about 20 persons. They were highly mobile on account of their dependence on game, and for the same reason widely dispersed territorially. The Hottentot, in comparison, were mainly herders along the Orange River, the boundary river between South Africa and Namibia, and the coastal belt stretching from Namibia around Cape Point to the Eastern Cape. Both groups were thought to have migrated southward, ahead of the Bantu-speaking peoples whose ancestral home lay well in the north.

Before the Dutch came to the Cape, the Hottentot conducted trade with their Bantu-speaking neighbours in cattle and dagga (marijuana) and, to a lesser extent, iron and copper. After the arrival of men from Europe, they traded their cattle for tobacco and began to act as brokers in developing trade between the Europeans and the Xhosa tribes to the east.

The European advance eventually cost the Hottentot their land, stock and trade. Twice defeated in battle in 1713 and 1755, and decimated by smallpox, they ultimately lost their identity as a distinct cultural group and intermarried with slaves and others to form the Cape Coloured people.

From the time of the first recorded discovery of the Cape, seafarers looked forward to the sight of majestic Table Mountain, this unmistakable beacon of promised hospitality along one of the busiest arteries of world commerce. However, the sudden knowledge that the Cape existed was not immediately followed by settlement.

In 1487, the Portuguese sailor Bartholomeus Dias set out to find a sea route to the East. Sailing along the west coast of Africa, his ships encountered a ferocious storm, which drove them out to sea and away from the coast. Once the storm had passed they resumed their journey in an easterly direction, expecting to reach the coast, their guideline, again soon. After a number of days' sailing without any sign of land, they changed direction and headed north, eventually landing at the mouth of the Gouritz River on the east coast of Africa on 3 February 1488. Dias and his crew were the first Europeans on record to round the Cape, albeit unwittingly.

It is widely believed that it was Dias who named the peninsula Cabo Tormentosa (Cape of Storms). This name was later changed to Cabo da Boa Esperanca (Cape of Good Hope) to signify that the rounding of the Cape brought hope that a sea route to the East was possible. Fully ten years later, Vasco Da Gama completed the sea route from Portugal around the Cape to India, thus finally opening up the trade route between Europe and the East.

Antonio de Saldanha was the first European to land in Table Bay. He climbed the mighty mountain in 1503 and named it 'Table Mountain'. The great cross that the Portuguese navigator carved in the rock of Lion's Head is still traceable.

In 1580, Sir Francis Drake sailed around the Cape in The Golden Hind and the ruggedness and breathtaking beauty of the peninsula inspired him to write - "This Cape is a most stately thing, and the fairest Cape in the whole circumference of the earth".

One hundred and sixty years after it was first discovered, the Peninsula was still a part of primeval Africa, almost unaffected by the tide of commerce that ebbed and flowed around its southern shores. Outward bound from Europe, the early navigators were too eager to reach the East. Homeward bound, they were too impatient to reap the profits in the European ports. Passing ships would leave postal matter under inscribed stones for other ships to find and carry forward. These so-called post office stones are still found in excavations and there is an interesting collection of them in the South African Museum in the Company's Gardens in Cape Town.

In 1652 the Dutch East India Company, yielding to repeated petitions and recommendations from their ships' officers, at last decided to establish a post at Table Bay. They sent three small ships, the Dromedaris, the Reijger and the Goede Hoop under the command of 23-year-old Jan Antony van Riebeeck to establish a stronghold on the shores of Table Bay. Their objective was to grow vegetables and fruit, barter for livestock with the Hottentot tribes and build a hospital and a sanctuary for the repair of ships. Jan van Riebeeck's first fort, subsequently replaced by the existing Castle of Good Hope, was Cape Town's first building.

The seventeenth century was the Golden Age of the Dutch Republic. Its merchants were the most successful businessmen in Europe the Dutch East India Company was the world's greatest trading corporation and had sovereign rights in the East and the Cape of Good Hope, and by mid-century was the dominant European maritime power in southeast Asia. Its fleet, numbering some six thousand ships was manned by perhaps 48 000 sailors.

The Cape became an outstation of the Dutch East India Company's eastern empire, based in Batavia in Java, and fell directly under the Governor-General of the Indies. From 1672 the Cape had a Governor of its own, but remained under eastern control until the end of the Company period in 1795.

From Table Bay the Cape Peninsula extends southward, a long narrow mass of highlands varying in width from three to seven miles, until it tapers to the high narrow promontory of Cape Point, nearly 48 kilometres away. Only in the neighbourhood of Table Bay and along the eastern flank of the mountains as far as False Bay were there large areas of relatively level lowland favourable to early settlement. The Cape Flats, which links the Peninsula to the mainland of Africa, was then covered by sand dunes and dune vegetation. Hollows between the dunes were flooded every winter by the rains. Some of the larger ones, such as Princess Vlei, persisted as lakes throughout the year. These were the haunt of the hippopotamus, as the name Zeekoevlei still reminds us.

The wagon road used by the woodcutters to the tree-covered mountain slopes of Newlands and Kirstenbosch was the first road to be opened by the European settlers. The patches of forest in Orange Kloof were preserved a little longer by their inaccessibility, but the woodcutters were soon at work in the moist valley bottom below. From the nearby anchorage near Orange Kloof, which was named Hout Bay (Wood Bay), the wood was shipped around the Mountain to Table Bay. The forests of the peninsula, never extensive, lasted barely a generation. Though trees now cover large areas of the mountain slopes once again, they are mostly exotic species.

Trial crops of wheat, oats and barley succeeded admirably on the deep, loamy soils of the Liesbeek River valley, and this led to the Company's grain-farming enterprise being transferred there in 1657. A large granary, De Schuur, was built near a round grove of thorn trees known at first as Rondedoornbosjen (modern Rondebosch). The residence Groote Schuur, reconstructed in 1896 on this site, is a beautiful example of old Cape architecture. It was formerly the residence of Prime Minister Cecil John Rhodes and was bequeathed by him as the official residence of the Prime Minister of South Africa.

To supplement the Company's crops, a number of its servants were given their discharge and settled as independent farmers along the valley in the area now known as Rondebosch and Rosebank. Van Riebeeck himself acquired an estate further upstream, a wooded hillside known as Bosheuvel (now the Bishopscourt Estate) where, in 1658, he established the first extensive wynberg or vineyard in South Africa. Van Riebeeck handed over the government of the Colony in 1662 to Zacharias Wagenaar and returned home to his native land.

During Wagenaar's term of office a site was chosen for a stronger fortress. In 1666, the foundation stones of the Castle of Good Hope were laid. Its plan was pentagonal and the Company garrisoned its soldiers there from 1674 onwards. In about 1667 the Company established a new cattle-post on the other side of Table Mountain, in the Hout Bay valley.

Simon van der Stel, who arrived as Governor in 1679, was destined to exercise marked influence on the Colony for the next 20 years. He enlarged and beautified van Riebeeck's garden and built a slave lodge (today the Cultural History Museum) at the entrance. It was during Simon van der Stel's governorship that the Huguenots, who had been driven from France by the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, arrived from Holland. There were some 200 of them, so small a number that they were quickly absorbed in the Dutch population. The lands given to Simon van der Stel by the Dutch East India Company, stretched from Muizenberg to the Steenberg Mountains, right across to Wynberg. He turned this vast region into rich farmland, planted some eight thousand trees and designed and built the stateliest of the Cape's historic mansions, Groot Constantia (named after his wife, Constance) in 1685, where he lived until his death in 1712. Groot Constantia remains one of the most favoured destinations for visiting tourists to the Cape. The Estate gave its name to the Constantia area, and its wines won the praise of even such connoisseurs as Kings of France. Simon van der Stel is also the founder of Stellenbosch, Drakenstein and Franschhoek, and is responsible for the construction of many of the famous homesteads in the Cape. More farmers soon settled in the Constantia area, along the little streams pretentiously named the Spaanschemat and Diep Rivers and on the soils so well suited to the vine. West of the mountains, Kronendal in the Hout Bay valley was granted to another enterprising settler in 1681 and a wagon road into the valley was opened over Constantia Nek twelve years later.

Simon van der Stel's eldest son, Willem Adriaan van der Stel, who succeeded him as Governor, added a museum to the gardens, and erected a lodge (now Government House) for the reception of visitors. He built Nieuweland (on a site now occupied by Newlands House) where he started a new garden. Later it replaced Rustenburg as the country residence of successive Governors and its pleasure gardens became almost legendary in the writings of eighteenth century visitors to the Cape. Willem Adriaan van der Stel also developed the Vergelegen Estate, where he built a house and planted over 500 000 vines, large orchards and corn lands. He stocked the farm with 800 cattle and 10 000 sheep. The fact that the Governor traded his products with ships in the port brought him into conflict with other farmers and eventually led to his recall to Holland and confiscation of his estate. The Dutch East India Company, which had reached the high point of its power during the governorships of the van der Stels, began to decline, chiefly because of English and French competition in the eastern markets.

In 1737 eight ships were wrecked in a single storm in Table Bay, with a loss of over 200 lives. In 1773, the Dutch East Indiaman The Jonge Thomas drifted into the breakers during a violent gale. Although 200 men were aboard, no effort was made by the Company's officials to rescue them. Enraged by this callousness, an old man, Wolraad Woltemade, borrowed a horse and rode into the pounding surf towards the doomed vessel. Eight times he made the journey and saved 14 men. He drowned during his last attempt. Ultimately the Company was driven to establish another winter port at Simon's Bay (modern Simon's Town). Named after Simon van der Stel, who surveyed the bay in 1657, ships were safe here under the lee of the Peninsula highlands.

Nowadays in the 21st century, Cape Town has evolved quite a bit and is fully embracing technology. All the latest gadgets can be found throughout the city including RFID at supermarkets giving you the ultimate shopping experience displaying important information about products and promoting the latest specials.


Cape Town, South Africa (1652- )

Cape Town is the second largest city in South Africa and one of the nation’s cultural and economic centers. Before the arrival of Europeans, the area was inhabited by San and Khoikhoi peoples. In 1652, Jan van Riebeeck established a small colony on the Cape of Good Hope as a refreshment station for the Dutch East India Company. The station soon became a town as Dutch settlers, attracted by the area’s climate that made the cultivation of European crops possible, continued to arrive. As a result, native pastoralists were evicted from their land, often by force. In 1795 Britain occupied the Cape Colony making Cape Town its military headquarters for the region.

By 1806, the resident population of Cape Town had climbed 16,500, of whom 10,000 were slaves. The city’s slave population was primarily imported from other regions of Africa. After the abolition of the slave trade in 1808, the number of slaves in the city steadily declined, and by 1840 Europeans were the majority. The port proved to be the city’s primary economic base, and when diamonds and gold were discovered inland in the second half of the nineteenth century, Cape Town became one of the primary entry points for the new wave of immigrants.

In the 1890s, many native Africans began to move into Cape Town. Early Cape Town had a reputation for racial tolerance and based the franchise on property ownership as opposed to skin color. Despite this, in 1901 the first notable segregation was imposed when black Capetonians were relocated outside the city center to Ndabeni. In 1910, Cape Town became the seat of the Union Parliament though the political center of the Union of South Africa would remain in Transvaal to the northeast.

In the first half of the twentieth century Cape Town began to industrialize. By the end of the Second World War, this industrialization had helped to trigger another wave of urbanization. New residents of European descent settled in different areas from those of African descent. In 1948, the National Party, which had a state platform of apartheid, was voted into power and what had been informal segregation now became national policy. By 1966, District Six in Cape Town was declared the largest area of exclusive white residence and many non-whites were forcefully evicted.

In February 1990, Nelson Mandela made his first speech after being released from prison from the balcony of Cape Town’s city hall. Despite the introduction of democracy, Cape Town continues to experience social problems such as gang related violence, resistance to full integration, and ethnic and racial factionalism, and poverty.


The Admiralty and the Divine

None of these temporary efforts had achieved high enough accuracy to satisfy navigators or astronomers, however, and on October 20, 1820 the ‘King’s Most Excellent Majesty in Council’ authorized the ‘… Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty to cause an observatory to be erected at the Cape of Good Hope …’, thus establishing the first permanent modern observatory in Africa.

As its head the Admiralty chose a brilliant young Cambridge mathematician, astronomer and clergyman who had studied books on mathematics while working at his father’s loom. He would need all his grit and determination…

When the Reverend Fearon Fallows arrived at the Cape, he found himself landed in the wrong place (Simon’s Town) and with no way of getting his cargo of astronomical instruments to Cape Town except by putting them on another ship at his own expense. In Cape Town the British authorities not only refused all payment of ‘one penny’ of Fallows’ expenses on land or sea, but refused to give the observatory instruments any storage space. Only the intervention of President van Breda of the Burgher-Senate prevented the ship’s captain from dumping the unbuilt observatory’s first load of instruments on the beach.

As it was, Fallows was allowed a room in the town granary, and the government eventually granted him one of the pre-fabricated huts intended for settlers at Algoa Bay. From this hut (originally in Kloof Street) Fallows began observing the southern stars. His results from these early observations appeared as a catalogue of 273 ‘principal fixed Stars’ in the 1824 Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. Though intended as a first rough effort, Fallows’ positions for southern stars were at least as good as any others readily available at the time.

An 1820 settler’s hut served as the first ‘Royal Observatory’. By 1834, it was part of a group of huts north of the new observatory building. (Watercolour by Thomas Bowler).


Geography of Cape Town, South Africa

Getty Images / Vicki Jauron, Babylon and Beyond Photography

  • M.A., Geography, California State University - East Bay
  • B.A., English and Geography, California State University - Sacramento

Cape Town is a large city located in South Africa. It is the second largest city in that country based on population and is the largest inland area (at 948 square miles or 2,455 square kilometers). As of 2007, the Cape Town's population was 3,497,097. It is also the legislative capital of South Africa and is the provincial capital for its region. As the legislative capital of South Africa, many of the city's functions are related to government operations.
Cape Town is well known as one of Africa's most popular tourist destinations and it is famous for its harbor, biodiversity and various landmarks. The city is located within the Cape Floristic Region of South Africa and as a result, ecotourism is popular in the city as well. In June 2010, Cape Town was also one of several South African cities to host World Cup games.
The following is a list of ten geographic facts to know about Cape Town:
1) Cape Town was originally developed by the Dutch East India Company as a supply station for its ships. The first permanent settlement at Cape Town was established by 1652 by Jan van Riebeeck and the Dutch controlled the area until 1795 when the English took control of the area. In 1803, the Dutch regained control of Cape Town via treaty.
2) In 1867, diamonds were discovered and immigration to South Africa greatly increased. This caused the Second Boer War of 1889-1902 when conflicts between the Dutch Boer republics and the British arose. Britain won the war and in 1910 it established the Union of South Africa. Cape Town then became the legislative capital of the union and later of the country of South Africa.
3) During the anti-apartheid movement, Cape Town was home to many of its leaders. Robben Island, located 6.2 miles (10 kilometers) from the city, was where many of these leaders were imprisoned. Following his release from prison, Nelson Mandela gave a speech at the Cape Town City Hall on February 11, 1990.
4) Today, Cape Town is divided into its main City Bowl- an area surrounded by Signal Hill, Lion's Head, Table Mountain and Devil's Peak- as well as its northern and southern suburbs and the Atlantic Seaboard and the South Peninsula. The City Bowl includes Cape Town's main business district and its world famous harbor. In addition, Cape Town has a region called Cape Flats. This area is a flat, low-lying area to the southeast of the city center.
5) As of 2007, Cape Town had population of 3,497,097 and a population density of 3,689.9 persons per square mile (1,424.6 persons per square kilometer). The ethnic breakdown of the city's population is 48% Colored (the South African term for ethnically mixed race peoples with ancestry in Sub-Saharan Africa), 31% Black African, 19% white and 1.43% Asian.
6) Cape Town is considered the main economic center of the Western Cape Province. As such, it is the regional manufacturing center for the Western Cape and it is the main harbor and airport in the area. The city also recently experienced growth due to the 2010 World Cup. Cape Town hosted nine of the games which spurred construction, rehabilitation of run-down parts of the city and a population boom.
7) The city center of Cape Town is located on the Cape Peninsula. The famous Table Mountain forms the backdrop of the city and rises to an elevation of 3,300 feet (1,000 meters). The rest of the city is situated on the Cape Peninsula between the various peaks jutting into the Atlantic Ocean.
8) Most of Cape Town's suburbs are within the Cape Flats neighborhood- a large flat plain that joins the Cape Peninsula with the main land. The geology of the region consists of a rising marine plain.
9) The climate of Cape Town is considered Mediterranean with mild, wet winters and dry, hot summers. The average July low temperature is 45°F (7°C) while the average January high is 79°F (26°C).
10) Cape Town is one of Africa's most popular international tourist destinations. This is because it has a favorable climate, beaches, a well developed infrastructure and a beautiful natural setting. Cape Town is also located within the Cape Floristic Region which means it has high plant biodiversity and animals such as humpback whales, Orca whales and African penguins live in the area.


History of the Rape Crisis Trust in Cape Town

International feminism was a catalyst for South African feminist organisation to address violence against women. In 1975, Anne Mayne, a survivor of both domestic violence and a gang rape, attended the UN International Year of the Women Conference in Mexico City and subsequently visited the US – experiences which were pivotal to her subsequent involvement in rape crisis services (Russell, 1989). In 1977, following their attendance at the first International Tribunal on Crimes Against Women in Brussels, Belgium in 1976, Rape Crisis Cape Town (RCCT) was formed the following year (Russell, 1989 Maconachie and van Zyl, 1994). Two years later Gabby Marcus, a RCCT counsellor moved to Johannesburg where, in collaboration with others she started People Opposing Women Abuse (POWA) in 1979.1 Of the two organisations, POWA had the stronger emphasis on domestic violence (Russell, 1989) and established the first shelter specifically for abused women in 1984. A second shelter was opened in the Western Cape in 1986 by RCCT (Anderson, 1988).

Organisations like POWA and RCCTT, as a matter of principle, also did not seek funds from the state due to the restrictions placed around the provision of services (such as counsellors being permitted to only provide services to people of the same racial group).2 Even so, rape and domestic violence services of the time were still shaped by apartheid practices. Because shelters had been established in white areas, the Group Areas Act served to limit their accessibility to black women. The service model adopted by rape crisis centres also mitigated its adoption by black women. Observed Mayne at the time: “We’ve tried for years to encourage black women to set up Rape Crisis services in their own communities. We share our information and discuss the process and hope they will adapt what we do to their situation. Because many of them don’t have phones or cars, they need to work out a different system from ours. But because they work very long hours and are forced to live very far from their work, they don’t have time for volunteer work, so almost nothing has happened so far” (Russell 1989: 234).

The way white violence against women organisations’ structured their arrangements also revealed a certain class-blindness. While Anne Mayne remembers black professional women attending many of RCCT’s training programmes, the combination of long working days and commutes, combined with the practice of holding meetings in the evening, meant that many black women were unable to attend meetings and thus played a minimal role in influencing policy. Attempts were made to sometimes meet in Mitchell’s Plain but the combination of distance (for white women), the dangers of townships (negotiated by black women daily), and the absence of meeting facilities in township areas, requiring people to congregate in modest township homes instead, meant this practice fell away. As a result meetings largely took place at a child guidance clinic in a white area (Russell, 1989).

RCCT did not initially define as feminist, some women concerned that their association with its politics would diminish the organisation’s credibility. So when the organisation, three years after its inception decided to explicitly claim the term, non-feminist women left. The decision to affiliate to the anti-apartheid movement also led to the departure of women of a more liberal feminist bent (Russell, 1989). As was largely the case internationally, radical feminism became the core theoretical position of violence against women organisations in South Africa (Hassim, 2006). In terms of a radical feminist analysis, violence was central to maintaining women’s oppression, with women’s subordination within the family the template for their subordination in the political, economic and social realms (Hansson, 1991). In countering such violence women were required to organise separately and autonomously to prevent their struggles being co-opted by patriarchal organisations (van Zyl, 1991). Organisations favoured flat, non-hierarchical structures chiefly composed of volunteers who, in the main, provided telephonic assistance to women.

This feminist perspective on violence, coupled with the adoption of feminist principles that resisted the professionalisation of services to abused women, ensured that mainstream professional organisations were antagonistic towards these organisations and viewed their efforts with some scepticism (Segel and Labe, 1990). Still, feminism had permeated the voluntary sector, both in the form of individual social workers within organisations such as FAMSA, as well as in the programming of organisations such as the National Institute for Crime Prevention and the Rehabilitation of Offenders (NICRO). In fact, in their earlier incarnation as the National Institute for Crime Prevention, NICRO had lent its support to RCCT’s work, so granting the organisation a certain weight and credibility. Other women’s organisations such as the National Council of Women also provided a public platform for the organisation at the time (Russell, 1989).

The way white violence against women organisations’ structured their arrangements also revealed a certain class-blindness. While Ann Mayne remembers black professional women attending many of RCCT’s training programmes, the combination of long working days and commutes, combined with the practice of holding meetings in the evening, meant that many black women were unable to attend meetings and thus played a minimal role in influencing policy. Attempts were made to sometimes meet in Mitchell’s Plain but the combination of distance (for white women), the dangers of townships (negotiated by black women daily), and the absence of meeting facilities in township areas, requiring people to congregate in modest township homes instead, meant this practice fell away. As a result meetings largely took place at a child guidance clinic in a white area (Russell, 1989).

RCCT did not initially define as feminist, some women concerned that their association with its politics would diminish the organisation’s credibility. So when the organisation, three years after its inception decided to explicitly claim the term, non-feminist women left. The decision to affiliate to the anti-apartheid movement also led to the departure of women of a more liberal feminist bent (Russell, 1989). As was largely the case internationally, radical feminism became the core theoretical position of violence against women organisations in South Africa (Hassim, 2006). In terms of a radical feminist analysis, violence was central to maintaining women’s oppression, with women’s subordination within the family the template for their subordination in the political, economic and social realms (Hansson, 1991). In countering such violence women were required to organise separately and autonomously to prevent their struggles being co-opted by patriarchal organisations (van Zyl, 1991). Organisations favoured flat, non-hierarchical structures chiefly composed of volunteers who, in the main, provided telephonic assistance to women.

This feminist perspective on violence, coupled with the adoption of feminist principles that resisted the professionalisation of services to abused women, ensured that mainstream professional organisations were antagonistic towards these organisations and viewed their efforts with some scepticism (Segel and Labe, 1990). Still, feminism had permeated the voluntary sector, both in the form of individual social workers within organisations such as FAMSA, as well as in the programming of organisations such as the National Institute for Crime Prevention and the Rehabilitation of Offenders (NICRO). In fact, in their earlier incarnation as the National Institute for Crime Prevention, NICRO had lent its support to RCCT’s work, so granting the organisation a certain weight and credibility. Other women’s organisations such as the National Council of Women also provided a public platform for the organisation at the time (Russell, 1989).

By the decade’s close, in addition to POWA and RCCT, a further five feminist rape crisis organisations were in existence in Pietermaritzburg, Durban, Grahamstown, and the ‘coloured’ areas of Heideveld and Belhar in the Western Cape (van Zyl, 1991), with annual meetings of the various centres taking place throughout the 1980s. A further four rape crisis agencies had also been established by 1991 in Port Elizabeth, George, Pretoria and Bloemfontein – but these were characterised as working within an individualist, welfare paradigm, rather than a feminist framework (van Zyl, 1991). By 1989 black women forming part of Women Against Women Abuse (WAWA) had established a shelter in the ‘coloured’ area of Eldorado Park (Park, Peters and De Sa, 2000).

What also emerged at the tail end of the 1980s in the Western Cape was Co-ordinated Action for Battered Women (CABW), the first regional network established to address domestic violence. Established by RCCT and NICRO Cape Town and comprising some 28 organisations based in the Western Cape (Anderson, 1989), its formation in 1989 belies Meintjes’ assertion that the first regional and national networks addressing violence against women were only formed in 1994 (2003: 148). CABW was in fact the fore-runner of the Western Cape Network on Violence Against Women.

In CABW also resides the first evidence of organisations approaching the state to “make life easier” for battered women. While Sheila Meintjes suggests that a second set of strategic alliances between feminist organisations and the apartheid state re-emerged in the late 1980s in the form of the Western Cape Attorney General’s Task Group on Rape, which led to improved treatment by the courts of rape and domestic violence matters (2003: 147), CABW’s efforts are not to be confused with this claim. It is clear from both Meintjes’ single, original source (Hansson, 1992), as well as a second article (Hansson, 1994) that this relationship was only initiated in 1992 and was instituted with the sole purpose of improving the position of rape survivors (Hansson 1992 Hansson, 1994 DoJ, 1999). In 1989 CABW’s efforts appear to have been directed chiefly at the level of local state structures, with CABW making recommendations to the South African Police (SAP) and court personnel around responding more effectively to women seeking their protection (Anderson 1989: 65). A pilot project was also established at Cape Town’s magistrate court to refer women wishing to withdraw assault charges against their male partners to Department of Health and Welfare social workers at the court. CABW was also proposing training for the Department of Manpower (as it was then named) intended to assist its officials help abused women to find employment. Perhaps in hope of the political changes to come, ‘democracy begins at home’ was the slogan adopted by CABW.


Across the road from the Castle of Good Hope is the beautiful Cape Town City Hall. This large Edwardian building dates back to 1905, and was designed by architects Harry Austin Reid and Frederick George Green, who won a public competition to design the building. The hall’s main chamber boasts an organ with 3000 pipes and regularly hosts musical concerts by the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra and other intriguing events. Widespread renovations have reinvigorated the interior of this iconic building, but thanks to its impressive clock tower and honey-coloured limestone facade, it’s still best appreciated from the outside.

Cape Town City Hall | © Jess Stafford/Culture Trip


Cape Town

Cape Town was founded in 1652 by Gov. Jan van Riebeeck as a supply station on the Dutch East India Company's sea route to the East. In 1795 the British occupied the city. It was returned to the Dutch in 1803 but recaptured in 1806 by the British, who established Cape of Good Hope Colony with Cape Town as capital. When the Union of South Africa was formed in 1910, Cape Town became its legislative capital and Pretoria its administrative capital.

Cape Town's attractions include the Castle, a fortress dating from 1666 the Dutch Reformed church (begun 1699) Old Town House (1755), which contains a museum of 17th-century Flemish and Dutch paintings and botanical gardens and an aquarium. The Univ. of Cape Town and a technical college are in the city nearby is the Groote Schuur estate, the former prime minister's and president's residence, now a museum and the Univ. of the Western Cape. The city has an international airport. Robben Island, a former political prison, is offshore.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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