Cape Town

2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: African Geography

Cape Town
Flag of Cape Town
( In detail)
City motto: Spes Bona (Latin: Good Hope)
Location of the City of Cape Town in Western Cape Province
Location of the City of Cape Town in Western Cape Province
Province Western Cape
Mayor Helen Zille
 - % water
2,499 km²
 - Total (2004)
 - Density
Not ranked
Established 1652
Time zone SAST ( UTC+2)
Calling code 021

Cape Town (Afrikaans: Kaapstad /ˈkɑːpstɑt/; Xhosa: iKapa) is the third most populous city in South Africa, forming part of the metropolitan municipality of the City of Cape Town. It is the provincial capital of the Western Cape, as well as the legislative capital of South Africa, where the National Parliament and many government offices are located. Cape Town is famous for its harbour as well as its natural setting in the Cape floral kingdom, including such well-known landmarks as Table Mountain and Cape Point. Often regarded as one of the world's most beautiful cities because of its geography, Cape Town is the most popular South African destination for tourism.

Cape Town originally developed as a victualling station for Dutch ships sailing to Eastern Africa, India, and Asia. Jan van Riebeeck's arrival on 6 April 1652 established the first permanent European settlement in sub-Saharan Africa. Cape Town quickly outgrew its original purpose as the first European outpost at the Castle of Good Hope. It was the largest city in South Africa until the growth of Johannesburg and Durban.

According to the 2001 Census, the city has a population of 2.9 million. Cape Town's land area of 2,499  square kilometres (965  sq mi) is larger than other South African cities, resulting in a comparatively lower population density of 1,158 people per square kilometre (2,999/sq mi). Cape Town is town twinned with Nice in France.


The first known people of the Western Cape area arrived from the north around 100,000 B.C. Little is known of the history of the region's first residents, as there is no written history of the area before it was first mentioned by Portuguese explorer Bartolomeu Dias in 1486. Vasco da Gama recorded a sighting of the Cape of Good Hope in 1497, but the area did not have regular contact with Europeans until 1652, when the Netherlands' Jan van Riebeeck and other employees of the Dutch East India Company (Dutch: Verenigde Oost-indische Compagnie, VOC) were sent to the Cape to establish a way-station for ships travelling to the Dutch East Indies. The city grew slowly during this period, as it was hard to find adequate labourers. This labour shortage prompted the city to import slaves from Indonesia and Madagascar; many of whom would come to form the first of the Cape Coloured communities.

The British successfully gained outright control of Cape Town in 1795, during the Battle of Muizenberg. Under the terms of a peace agreement negotiated after the war, the Cape was returned to the Dutch in 1803. The war resumed later that year, and British forces re-occupied the Cape, after winning the Battle of Blaauwberg in 1806. In the 1814 peace treaty which ended the war in Europe, the Cape was permanently incorporated into the British Empire. As the territory under British control grew even larger outward from the city, it became the capital of the newly formed Cape Colony.

A painting of the arrival of Jan van Riebeeck in Table Bay
A painting of the arrival of Jan van Riebeeck in Table Bay

The discovery of diamonds in Griqualand West in 1869, and gold on the Witwatersrand in 1886, near the present-day city of Johannesburg prompted a massive gold rush. Johannesburg grew rapidly as the country was flooded with immigrants. Tensions also emerged between the Boers, who had taken part in the Great Trek and established republics in the centre of the country; the new migrants, known as uitlanders; and the British colonial government. This conflict resulted in the Second Anglo-Boer War. After the British won this war and acquired control of the gold and diamond industries, they unified the Cape Colony with the two defeated Boer Republics (the South African Republic and the Orange Free State) and the British colony of Natal to form the Union of South Africa, which was proclaimed in 1910 with Cape Town as its legislative capital, a function it has continued to serve for the Republic of South Africa from 1961 to the present.

In 1948, the National Party was elected on election promises of racial segregation laws, collectively known by the Afrikaans word apartheid. As a consequence of the Group Areas Act, which classified all areas of the country and city according to race, formerly multi-racial suburbs were either purged of unlawful residents or demolished. The most infamous example of this in Cape Town is District Six, which was demolished in 1965, prompting the forced removal of over 60,000 residents after it was declared a whites-only region. Many of these residents were relocated to the Cape Flats. Under apartheid, the Cape was considered a " Coloured labour preference area", to the exclusion of Black Africans.

Cape Town was home to many leaders of the anti-apartheid movement, despite many of the group's leaders' internment on Robben Island, a penitentiary island 10 kilometres out to sea from the city, where many famous political prisoners were held for many years. In one of the most famous moments marking the end of apartheid, Nelson Mandela made his first public speech in decades on 11 February 1990 from the balcony of Cape Town City Hall hours after being released. His speech heralded the beginning of a new era for the country, and the first democratic election was held four years later, on 27 April 1994. Since 1994, the city has struggled with major problems such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and a surge in violent drug-related crime. At the same time, the economy has surged to unprecedented levels due to the boom in the tourism and the real estate industries.


A NASA satellite image of Cape Town and its environment taken by a Landsat satellite in February 2000
A NASA satellite image of Cape Town and its environment taken by a Landsat satellite in February 2000

The centre of Cape Town is located at the northern end of the Cape Peninsula. Table Mountain forms a dramatic backdrop to the city bowl, with its plateau well over one kilometre (3,300  ft) high; it is surrounded by near-vertical cliffs, Devil's Peak and Lion's Head. Sometimes a thin strip of cloud forms over the mountain, and owing to its appearance, it is affectionately known as the "tablecloth". The peninsula consists of a dramatic mountainous spine jutting southwards into the Atlantic Ocean, ending at Cape Point. There are over 70 peaks above 1,000 feet (304.8  m) (the American definition of a mountain) within Cape Town's official city limits. Many of the suburbs of Cape Town are on the large plain of the Cape Flats, which joins the peninsula to the mainland. The Cape Flats lie on what is known as a rising marine plain, consisting mostly of sandy geology which shows that at one point Table Mountain itself was an island.


The Cape Peninsula has a Mediterranean climate with well-defined seasons. In winter, which lasts from May to August, large cold fronts come across from the Atlantic Ocean with heavy precipitation and strong north-westerly winds. The winter months are cool, with an average minimum temperature of 7 ° C (45 ° F). Most of the city's annual rainfall occurs in wintertime, but due to the mountainous topography of the city, rainfall amounts for specific areas can vary dramatically. The suburb of Newlands which is to the south of the city is the wettest place in South Africa. The valleys and coastal plains average 515  millimetres (20  in) of rain per annum, while mountain areas can average as much as 1,500 millimetres (60 in) per annum. Summer, which lasts from November to February, is warm and dry. The Peninsula gets frequent strong winds from the south-east, known locally as the Cape Doctor, because it blows away pollution and cleans the air. The south-easterly wind is caused by a high-pressure system which sits in the South Atlantic to the west of Cape Town, known as the South-Atlantic High. Summer temperatures are mild, with an average maximum of 26 °C (79 °F).

Climate Table
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Highest recorded temperature ( °C) 39 38 41 39 34 30 29 32 33 37 40 35 41
Average daily maximum temperature ( °C) 26 27 25 23 20 18 18 18 19 21 24 25 22
Average daily minimum temperature ( °C) 16 16 14 12 9 8 7 8 9 11 13 15 11
Lowest recorded temperature ( °C) 7 6 5 2 1 -1 -1 0 0 1 4 6 -1
Average monthly precipitation ( mm) 15 17 20 41 69 93 82 77 40 30 14 17 515
Average number of rain days (>= 1 mm) 6 5 5 8 11 13 12 14 10 9 5 6 103
Source: South African Weather Service


The Cape Town City Hall, located in the City Bowl
The Cape Town City Hall, located in the City Bowl

Cape Town's local government is the City of Cape Town, which is a metropolitan municipality. Cape Town is governed by a 210-member city council, which reports to a 28-member executive council. The executive council, in turn, is presided over by a city manager and an executive mayor. The city is divided into 105 electoral wards; each ward directly elects one member of the council, whilst the other 105 councillors are elected by a party-list proportional representation system. The mayor is chosen by the city council.

The current mayor is Helen Zille of the Democratic Alliance. In the most recent local government elections, the Democratic Alliance was the largest single party with 90 of the 210 seats on the council, ahead of the African National Congress's 81 seats, but with no party holding a majority. A subsequent by-election has increased the DA's seats to 91.

Before the unification of Cape Town's local government into the so-called "Unicity", it was divided into six regional "Administrations"; many functions of the Unicity are still divided according to the old Administrations. The administrations include Cape Town, which has the regions of City Bowl, the Atlantic Seaboard, the southern suburbs, Pinelands, Langa and Mitchell's Plain. The South Peninsula includes Hout Bay, Wynberg, Constantia, Fish Hoek, Kommetjie, Noordhoek and Simon's Town. The Blaauwberg region includes Milnerton, Tableview, and Bloubergstrand. Tygerberg has its own region, with Durbanville, Bellville, and Khayelitsha added to it. Oostenberg includes Kraaifontein, Brackenfell, Kuilsrivier, Blue Downs, and Eerste Rivier. The last administration, Helderberg, includes Somerset West, Strand, and Gordon's Bay.


Geographical distribution of home languages in Cape Town
Geographical distribution of home languages in Cape Town

According to the South African National Census of 2001, the population of Cape Town is 2,893,251 people. There are 759,767 formal households, of which 87.4% have a flush or chemical toilet, and 94.4% have refuse removed by the municipality at least once a week. 80.1% of households use electricity as the main source of energy. 16.1% of households are headed by one person.

Coloured people account for 48.13% of the population, followed by Black Africans at 31%, Whites at 18.75%, and Asians at 1.43%. 46.6% of the population is under the age of 24, whilst 5% are over the age of 65. The median age in the city is 26 years old, and for every 100 females, there are 92.4 males. 19.4% of city residents are unemployed; 58.3% of the unemployed are black, 38.1% are Coloured, 3.1% are White and 0.5% are Asian.

41.4% of Cape Town residents speak Afrikaans at home, 28.7% speak Xhosa, 27.9% speak English, 0.7% speak Sesotho, 0.3% speak Zulu, 0.1% speak Setswana and 0.7% of the population speaks a non-official language at home. 76.6% of residents are Christian, 10.7% have no religion, 9.7% are Muslim, 0.5% are Jewish and 0.2% are Hindu. 2.3% have other or undetermined beliefs.

4.2% of residents aged 20 and over have received no schooling; 11.8% have had some primary school; 7.1% have completed only primary school; 38.9% have had some high school education; 25.4% have finished only high school and 12.6% have an education higher than the high school level. Overall, 38.0% of residents have completed high school. The median annual income of working adults aged 15-65 is ZAR 25 774. Males have a median annual income of ZAR 28 406 versus ZAR 22 265 for females.


There has been a number of robberies and murders targeting Somali shopkeepers. Many believe the reasons are xenophobic. A notable robbery was in Masiphumelele when 200 to 300 residents attacked a Somali shop.

Crime has become a hotly debated topic. Most tourist areas are as safe as their counterparts anywhere in the world. The highest crime areas are mostly often the poorer suburbs.


The main entrance to the Cape Town International Convention Centre
The main entrance to the Cape Town International Convention Centre

Cape Town is the economic centre of the Western Cape and serves as the regional manufacturing centre. It is also has the primary harbour and airport in the Western Cape. The large government presence in the city, both as the capital of the Western Cape and the seat of the National Parliament, has led to increased revenue and growth in industries that serve the government. Cape Town hosts many conferences, particularly in the new Cape Town International Convention Centre, which opened in June 2003. The city has recently enjoyed a booming real estate and construction market, with many people buying summer homes in the city as well as relocating there permanently. The central business district is under an extensive urban renewal programme, with numerous new buildings and renovations taking place under the guidance of the Cape Town Partnership.

High school attendance rates and the city's well-established higher education infrastructure have helped Cape Town to attract foreign investors, as there are more people with internationally recognised certification and diplomas.

The Western Cape also generates a quarter of the South African agricultural sector's total gross income and more than half of South Africa's exports. Much of the produce is handled through the Port of Cape Town or Cape Town International Airport. Most major ship-building companies have offices and manufacturing locations in Cape Town. The Province is also a centre of energy development for the country, with the existing Koeberg nuclear power station providing energy for the majority of Cape Town's needs. Recently, scientists have discovered oil and natural gas off of the coast in the Atlantic Ocean.

The Western Cape is an important tourist region in South Africa; the tourism industry accounts for 9.8% of the GDP of the province and employs 9.6% of the province's workforce. In 2004, over 1.5 million international tourists visited the area.


The Victoria & Alfred Waterfront with Table Mountain and its characteristic tablecloth in the background
The Victoria & Alfred Waterfront with Table Mountain and its characteristic tablecloth in the background
The distinctive Cape Malay Bo-Kaap is one of the most visited areas in Cape Town.
The distinctive Cape Malay Bo-Kaap is one of the most visited areas in Cape Town.

Cape Town is one of the most popular tourist destinations in South Africa due to its good climate, natural setting, and relatively well-developed infrastructure. The city has several well-known natural features that attract tourists, most notably Table Mountain, which forms the majority of Table Mountain National Park and is the back end of the City Bowl. Reaching the top of the mountain can be achieved either by hiking up, or by taking the Table Mountain Cableway. Cape Point is recognised as the dramatic headland at the end of the Cape Peninsula. Many tourists also drive along Chapman's Peak Drive, a narrow road that links Noordhoek with Hout Bay, for the views of the Atlantic Ocean and nearby mountains. It is possible to either drive or hike up Signal Hill for closer views of the City Bowl and Table Mountain.

Many tourists also visit Cape Town's beaches, which are popular with local residents. Due to the city's unique geography, it is possible to visit several different beaches in the same day, each with a different setting and atmosphere. Beaches located on the Atlantic Coast tend to have very cold water as the water is mostly glacial melt from Antarctica. The water at False Bay beaches is often warmer by up to 10 °C (18 °F). Both coasts are equally popular, although the beaches in affluent Clifton and elsewhere on the Atlantic Coast are better developed with restaurants and cafés. The most famous beach in Cape Town, Boulders Beach, is known for its colony of African penguins. Surfing is also popular and the city hosts the Red Bull Big Wave Africa surfing competition every year.

The city also has several notable cultural attractions. The Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, built on top of part of the docks of the Port of Cape Town, is now one of the city's most popular shopping venues, with several hundred shops and the Two Oceans Aquarium. Part of the V&A's charm, as it is locally known, is that the Port continues to operate and visitors can watch ships enter and leave. The V&A also hosts the Nelson Mandela Gateway, through which ferries depart for Robben Island. It is possible to take a ferry from the V&A to Hout Bay, Simon's Town and the Cape Fur Seal colonies on Seal and Duiker Islands. Several companies offer tours of the Cape Flats, a mostly Coloured township, and Khayelitsha, a mostly black township. It is also possible to sleep overnight in Cape Town's townships. There are several B&B's where you can spend a safe and real African night.

Cape Town is also noted for its architectural heritage, with the highest density of Cape Dutch style buildings in the world. Cape Dutch style, which combines the architectural traditions of France, the Netherlands, and Germany, is most visible in Constantia, the old government buildings in the Central Business District, and along Long Street. The annual Cape Town Minstrel Carnival, also known by its Afrikaans name of Kaapse Klopse, is a large minstrel festival held annually on January 2 or "Tweede Nuwe Jaar" (Afrikaans: Second New Year). Competing teams of minstrels parade in brightly coloured costumes, either carrying colourful umbrellas or playing an array of musical instruments. The Artscape Theatre Centre is the main performing arts venue in Cape Town.

Cape Town's transport system links it to the rest of South Africa; it serves as the gateway to other destinations within the province. The Cape Winelands and in particular the towns of Stellenbosch, Paarl and Franschhoek are popular day trips from the city for sightseeing and wine tasting. Whale watching is popular amongst tourists: Southern Right Whales can be found off the coast during the breeding season (August to November) and Bryde's Whales can be seen any time of the year. The nearby town of Hermanus is known for its Whale Festival, but whales can also be seen in False Bay. Heaviside's dolphins are endemic to the area and can be seen from the coast north of Cape Town; dusky dolphins live along the same coast and can occasionally be seen from the ferry to Robben Island.

Approximately 1.5 million tourists visited in Cape Town during 2004, bringing in a total of R10 billion in revenue. The forecasts for 2006 anticipate 1.6 million tourists spending a total of R12 billion. The most popular areas for visitors to stay include Camps Bay, Sea Point, V & A Waterfront, Hout Bay, Rondebosch, Hermanus, Constantia, City Bowl, Somerset West and Newlands.

Sports teams and stadia

Club Sport League Stadium
Ajax Cape Town Football Premier Soccer League Philippi Stadium
Cape Cobras Cricket Standard Bank Cup Series Newlands Cricket Ground
Santos Football Premier Soccer League Athlone Stadium
Stormers Rugby union Super 14 Newlands Stadium
Western Province Rugby union Currie Cup Newlands Stadium

Cape Town's most popular sports by participation are cricket, association football, swimming, and rugby. The Stormers represent Western Province and Boland in the Southern Hemisphere's Super 14 rugby union competition. Cape Town is the home of the Western Province Rugby Union, who play at Newlands Stadium and compete in the Currie Cup. Cape Town also regularly hosts the national team, the Springboks, and hosted matches during the 1995 Rugby World Cup, including a semi-final.

Football, which is better known as soccer in South Africa, is also popular. Two clubs from Cape Town play in the Premier Soccer League (PSL), South Africa's premier league. These teams are Ajax Cape Town, which formed as a result of the 1999 amalgamation of the Seven Stars and the Cape Town Spurs; and Santos. Cape Town will also be the location of several of the matches of the FIFA 2010 World Cup, which is to be held in South Africa. The Mother City is planning a new 70.000 seat stadium in the Greenpoint area.

In cricket, the Cape Cobras represent Cape Town at the Newlands Cricket Ground. The team is the result of an amalgamation of the Western Province Cricket and Boland Cricket teams. They take part in the Supersport and Standard Bank Cup Series.

Cape Town also has Olympic aspirations: in 1996, Cape Town was one of the five candidate cities shortlisted by the IOC to launch official candidatures to host the 2004 Summer Olympics. Although the games ultimately went to Athens, Cape Town came in an impressive third place, edging out Stockholm and Buenos Aires in the first three rounds of voting. There has been some speculation that Cape Town is seeking the South African Olympic Committee's nomination to be South Africa's bid city for either the 2016 or the 2020 Summer Olympic Games.


The N2, also known as the Eastern Boulevard, as it enters the City Bowl and ends in the Central Business District
The N2, also known as the Eastern Boulevard, as it enters the City Bowl and ends in the Central Business District

Cape Town International Airport serves both domestic and international flights. It is the second-largest airport in South Africa and serves as a major gateway for travellers to the Cape region. Cape Town has direct flights to most cities in South Africa as well as a number of international destinations.

As of June 2006, Cape Town International Airport is being upgraded to handle an expected increase in air traffic as tourism numbers will increase in the lead-up to the 2010 FIFA World Cup. The renovations include several large new parking garages, a revamped domestic departure terminal and a new international terminal. The airport's cargo facilities are also being expanded and several large empty lots are being developed into office space and hotels.


Cape Town has a long tradition as a port city. The Port of Cape Town, the city's main port, is located in Table Bay directly to the north of the central business district. The port is a hub for ships in the southern Atlantic: it is located along one of the busiest shipping corridors in the world. It is also a busy container port, second in South Africa only to Durban. In 2004, it handled 3,161 ships and 9.2 million tonnes of cargo.

Simon's Town Harbour on the False Bay coast of the Cape Peninsula is the main base of the South African Navy.

The interior of Cape Town Railway Station
The interior of Cape Town Railway Station

The Shosholoza Meyl is the passenger rail operations of Spoornet and operates two long-distance passenger rail services from Cape Town: a daily service to and from Johannesburg via Kimberley and a weekly service to and from Durban via Kimberley, Bloemfontein and Pietermaritzburg. These trains terminate at Cape Town Railway Station and make a brief stop at Bellville. Cape Town is also one terminus of the luxury tourist-oriented Blue Train.

Metrorail operates a commuter rail service in Cape Town and the surrounding area. The Metrorail network consists of 96 stations throughout the suburbs and outskirts of Cape Town.

The M3 as it passes the University of Cape Town. The M3 is the major link between the City Bowl and the southern suburbs.
The M3 as it passes the University of Cape Town. The M3 is the major link between the City Bowl and the southern suburbs.

Three national roads start in Cape Town: the N1 which links Cape Town with Bloemfontein, Johannesburg, Pretoria and Zimbabwe; the N2 which links Cape Town with Port Elizabeth, East London and Durban; and the N7 which links Cape Town with the Northern Cape Province and Namibia. The N1 and N2 both start in the Central Business District, and split to the east of the CBD, with the N1 continuing to the north east and the N2 heading south east past Cape Town International Airport. The N7 starts in Mitchells Plain and runs north, intersecting with the N1 and the N2 before leaving the city.

Cape Town also has a system of freeway and dual carriageway M-roads, which connect different parts of the city. The M3 splits from the N2 and runs to the south along the eastern slopes of Table Mountain, connecting the City Bowl with Muizenberg. The M5 splits from the N1 further east than the M3, and links the Cape Flats to the CBD. The R300, which is informally known as the Cape Flats Freeway, links Mitchells Plain with Bellville, the N1 and the N2.


Golden Arrow Bus Services operates scheduled bus services throughout the Cape Town metropolitan area. Several companies run long-distance bus services from Cape Town to the other cities in South Africa.

Cape Town taxi rank above train station
Cape Town taxi rank above train station

Cape Town has two kinds of taxis: metered taxis and minibus taxis. Unlike many cities, metered taxis are not allowed to drive around the city to solicit fares and instead must be called to a specific location.

Minibus taxis are the standard form of transport for the majority of the population who cannot afford private vehicles. Although essential, these taxis are often poorly maintained and are frequently not road-worthy. These taxis make frequent unscheduled stops to pick up passengers, which causes accidents when drivers to the rear are unable to stop in time. With the high demand for transport by the working class of South Africa, minibus taxis are often filled over their legal passenger allowance, making for high casualty rates when minibuses are involved in accidents. Minibuses are generally owned and operated in fleets, and inter-operator violence flares up from time to time, especially as turf wars occur over lucrative taxi routes.


The University of Cape Town's main campus with Devil's Peak behind it
The University of Cape Town's main campus with Devil's Peak behind it

Cape Town has a well-developed higher education system of public universities. Cape Town is served by two public universities: the University of Cape Town (UCT) and the University of the Western Cape (UWC). Stellenbosch University, while not in the city itself, is 50 kilometres from the City Bowl and has additional campuses, such as the Tygerberg Faculty of Health Sciences and the Bellville Business Park closer to the City.

Both the University of Cape Town and Stellenbosch University are leading universities in South Africa. This is due in large part to substantial financial contributions made to these institutions by both the public and private sector. Since the African National Congress has come into governmental power, some restructuring of Western Cape universities has taken place and as such, traditionally non-white universities have seen increased financing, which has benefitted the University of the Western Cape.

The public Cape Peninsula University of Technology was formed on January 1, 2005, when two separate institutions— Cape Technikon and Peninsula Technikon— were merged together. The new university offers education primarily in English, although one may take courses in any of South Africa's official languages. The institution generally awards the National Diploma.

See also the African Institute of Mathematical Sciences.

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