Cape Town, South Africa and Its Urban, Social & Cultural Issues
Ever since its first establishment by the Dutch East India Company in 1650 (“Bray, 2008”), Cape Town has experienced a number of tumultuous urban, social and cultural issues. These events greatly shaped Cape Town into the urban centre it is today, making the South African city an interesting subject of qualitative analysis. In the present, Cape Town continues to face and address urban issues, the mains of which will be discussed later on.
THE HISTORY OF CAPE TOWN
Before analysing Cape Town’s urban situation, knowledge of both the city’s and South Africa’s social history is essential to understanding the issues that pervade the city today. Cape Town, currently South Africa’s second most populated city and its legislative capital, was founded in 1650 by the Dutch East India Company as a supply station for Dutch ships. Cape Town, since it was located near the shore, was an ideal port city and rest station for travelling ships and sailors. A labour shortage prompted Cape Town to bring in slaves primarily from Asian countries like Indonesia, India and Malaysia. (“Bray, 2008”). The descendants of these slaves were legally labelled as “Coloured” residents later in the 1940’s. The native Africans were known as Blacks, and the descendants of European settlers were known as Whites. East Asians were also present in Cape Town during the 1700’s. By this time, Cape Town had become a very multicultural (but not yet tolerant) city (“Bray, 2008”). The most prominent and important historical event of both Cape Town and South Africa is the Apartheid, the legislated racial segregation of Whites, Blacks and Coloured people in South Africa that lasted for almost half a century (“Chokshi, 1995”). The Apartheid and its aftermath greatly influenced Cape Town’s politics and society; it impacted how space was perceived and distributed in the city, the economy, social and cultural values, and the environment.
CAPE TOWN TODAY: AN OVERVIEW
Today, Cape Town boasts a population of 3.5 million people (“Bray, 2008”) from many different cultural and ethnic backgrounds. In the 2001 census, Coloured and Black people made up the majority of the population at 79%, while the remaining 21% was either White or Asian (“Chokshi, 1995”). The multicultural aspect of Cape Town makes it a popular destination for immigrants and tourists alike.
URBAN ISSUE FOCUS: CITY REGENERATION
During the Apartheid, 19 million Blacks were only given 13% of the total land in South Africa, compared to 4.5 million Whites owning 87% of the rest (“Chokshi, 1995”). This problem is very apparent in Cape Town – Khayelitsha, located on the outskirts of Cape Town, is Africa’s largest and most populated shanty town (“Bray, 2008”). The slum was formed during the Apartheid, since so many people had to fit into such a small area. Additionally, Black people were given terrible access to materials to build houses, electricity, plumbing, water and other necessities and amenities. Many of these poor houses were built using plastic, cardboard and mud (“Chokshi, 1995”). After the African National Congress took over South African parliament in 1994 (post-Apartheid era), Cape Town underwent (and is still going through) major urban transformations (Low, 2003). Urban planning and reconstruction is taking place in the inner city as well as the townships surrounding the city (Low, 2003). Living conditions in urban centres and shanty towns have improved – sanitation and electrical services have expanded, and education is beginning to reach the most abject populations (Low, 2003). Cape Town implemented the “Dignified Places Programme” in 2006. The goal of the practice was to demonstrate Cape Town’s commitment to equality and sustainable development during the post-Apartheid era. Through the program, the city constructs public spaces in the poorest areas of the city to promote...