From an outstation to a world-class City.
We do not often think of it but long before the beginning of the Christian era, communities lived here in what we know as the Cape Peninsula and Western Cape. Those communities are the ancestors of the Khoisan people.
You had the Sun communities who are the Bushman, and the Khoikhoi who is the Hottentot group. Both of these groups migrated South long before the Bantu people whose history starts off well to the north.
Before the arrival of the Dutch, the Hottentot traded with their Bantu neighbours in mostly cattle and marijuana but also in smaller volumes iron and copper. Twice losing battles with the arriving Europeans and having to deal with smallpox at the end the Khoikhoi lost their identity as a distinct cultural group. Intermarrying slaves formed the new Cape Coloured people.
Where did the name Cape Town come from?
The Portuguese navigator and explorer Bartholomeus Dias are believed to be the first European on record who round the Cape. He encountered a ferocious storm that drove him out to sea and away from the shore. He named the shore Cabo Tormentosa (Cape of Storms). Because the Cape brought the hope of a trade route to the east the name was later changed to Cabo da Boa Esperanca (Cape of Good Hope)
The first European to land in the Table Bay area was Antonio de Saldanha. Antonio climbs the Table Bay mountain in 1503 and named it Table Mountain.
What were the first stages of development?
With a supply station for Dutch ships sailing to Eastern Africa in mind, a young 23-year-old Jan Antony van Riebeeck arrived on the 6th of April 1652. His objective was to grow vegetables and fruit, exchange some of his valuables with the Hottentot for livestock. A hospital and a sanctuary for the repair of ships were to be built.
Cape Towns first building, a fort which was replaced by the existing Castle of Good Hope, was built by Jan van Riebeeck. The first road to be opened by the European settlers was the road used by woodcutters in their wagons to reach the slopes of Newlands and Kirstenbosch. These same woodcutters were soon at work near Orange Kloof and named the area Hout Baai (Wood Bay). From Hout Baai the wood would be shipped around the mountain to Table Bay.
The soils in the valley areas delivered good harvests in the trial crops of wheat, oats and barley. A grain-farming enterprise started in 1657.
In a further development, servants were given discharge and became independent farmers. Jan Van Riebeeck handed the government over to Zacharias Wagenaar in 1662. During his term, the cornerstone of the Castle of Good Hope was laid. Simon van der Stel played a significant role in the further development of what we today know as Cape Town and surrounding areas.
Slowly but surely the little settlement in Table Valley began to develop into a town. In 1795 the Cape was handed over to Britain and they remained in control till 1803. After the Battle of Blaauwberg, the Dutch resistance crumbled and in 1814 the Cape Colony was ceded to Britain.
Under British rule, villages started to develop and the first mail-packet service between England and Cape Town was established in 1814 by Lord Charles Somerset, at the foot of the Wynberg Hill the village of Wynberg developed together with satellite villages that formed around churches and inns along the road to False Bay.
A new era:
1840 Cape Town became a municipality. The little settlement began to grow like never before and by the mid 19th century the harbour needed improvement. Prince Alfred begins the Alfred Dock in 1870, at Simons Town, the Selborne Dock were constructed and the little town was transformed in a modern naval base.
War & Apartheid:
Between forming the Union in 1910 and the historic election of 1948 South Africa became a powerful industrial nation. Under the leadership of DF Malan, the apartheid era marked its beginning.
The apartheid-era lasted till 1994 when it reached its turning point and the first black State President, Nelson Mandela headed a government of national unity.
Author: Reinier Bredenkamp