effectively discouraging their employment in the city – their social status decreased and they started moving out of the crowded, integrated inner-city. Residential segregation became a feature of Cape Town and the city’s solution to its lack of housing was to develop sub-economic housing on the Cape Flats strictly along racial lines. While racial prejudice was already deeply rooted in the colonial-era town planning, the twentieth century saw this prejudice enacted into law. As far back as the 1920s, black South African men were designated guest workers in urban areas. Town planning laws reinforced this system: a 1937 law prevented black South Africans from buying land except from other so-called “Africans”; hostels (as opposed to homes) catering for male workers were erected in the township of Langa in 1948. The net outcome of this programme of discrimination denied black South Africans an opportunity to live and work in the city. Life for non-white families historically resident in Cape Town became equally miserable, residents of mixed-race neighbourhoods like District Six banished to the urban fringe. In 1966 District Six was declared a white neighbourhood in terms of the Group Areas Act. Residents were forced from their homes, their homes bulldozed and their lives all but erased. The reasons provided by government for the removals were that the area was a slum, crime, prostitution, gambling and alcoholism rendering it dangerous. Most residents believed that the reason for their removal was the land’s value, being close to the CBD, the harbour and the mountain. All counted, about 150,000 people, including 60,000 residents of District Six, were forced out of the central city, causing wholesale destruction of areas and communities. Ironically, the area was never developed for whites and remained a stark, empty scar on the landscape for about 30 years. The only development was the contested construction of the Cape Technikon, now the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT).
Published on Oct 15, 2010