Cape Town, South Africa City Overview

Cape Town (in Afrikaans, Kaapstad ; in English, Cape Town), is the second most populous city in the Republic of South Africa, preceded only by Johannesburg. It is the legislative capital of the country as it is the seat of the National Parliament and was the capital of the former province of El Cabo. This city with centuries of history fundamentally linked to port trade is famous for its port, as well as for its diversity in terms of flora, geographical features such as Table Mountain and Punta del Cabo. In 2007 it was considered by the National Geografic magazineas one of the 20 most beautiful cities in terms of geographical diversity and has been recognized for the use of such conditions for the benefit of tourism.


Cape Town was founded in 1652 by Jan van Riebeeck as a supply base for the Dutch East India Company (Dutch: Verenigde Oost-indische Compagnie, VOC), and is the oldest city of European origin in South Africa. It remained under Dutch authority, assisted by the presence of a French garrison, from 1781 to 1795 until it was taken by the British army in 1795 during the Napoleonic Wars.

For a short period of time the colony was again under Dutch control in 1803, and was reoccupied by British troops in 1806. In the 18th and early 19th centuries, prior to the construction of the Suez Canal, City The Cape was an important supply station for ships. It became the capital of the British Cape Colony in 1814 and was later constituted as the legislative capital of the Union of South Africa (1910-1961), a function that it currently maintains as the seat of the National Assembly of the Republic of South Africa.

Apartheid era

In 1948, the National Party was victorious in an election that promised racial segregation laws, known collectively by the Afrikaans word apartheid. As a consequence of the Group Areas Act, which classified all areas of the country and cities according to race, previously multiracial suburbs were cleared of illegal residents or demolished. The most famous example of this in Cape Town is District 6, which was demolished in 1965, forcing the movement of nearly 60,000 residents after it was declared a white-only region. Many of them were relocated to the Cape Plains. Under apartheid, the Cape was considered a “preferably mestizo labor zone” excluding black Africans [1] .

According to, Cape Town was the birthplace of many leaders of the anti-apartheid movement, despite the imprisonment of the leaders on Robben Island, a prison island 10 kilometers offshore, many famous political prisoners were locked up for many years. In one of the most important moments that marked the end of apartheid, Nelson Mandela delivered his decades-long speech on February 11, 199 0 from the balcony of the Cape Town municipal building hours after his liberation. His speech heralded the start of a new era for the country and the first South African democratic election was held four years later, on April 27, 1994.

Since 1994, the city has had to deal with serious problems such as AIDS, tuberculosis and the emergence of drug- related crimes, which has given the city one of the highest homicide rates in the world, although since 2004 the Crime rates in the city have fallen by 90% causing the population increase in the central districts. The poor quality of public transport has been pointed out. At the same time, the economy has resurfaced at unprecedented levels, due to the boom in tourism and the real estate industries. [2]


Since the end of Apartheid, Cape Town remains the stronghold of the political opposition to the ANC, being the only major city ruled by the opposition. Cape Town ranks 85 among 215 cities in the world for its level and quality of life, being the first city in South Africa, and in Africa, according to this ranking carried out by “Mercer Human Resources Consulting” and its mayor Helen Zille has been named best mayor of the year 2008 (in his three years of government the GDP of the city grew by 12%, crime fell by 90% and unemployment fell from 21% to 18%). This award has been endorsed by the results of the general elections of 2009, in which the “Democratic Alliance” has obtained 51.5% and 51% of the votes in the province and the city respectively.

During 2010, the city was the venue for the 2010 South Africa Soccer World Cup, where decisive and important matches of the qualifying stage, the round of 16 and the semifinal were played.

Main features

It is located at the northern tip of the Cape Peninsula and is one of the main ports and industrial centers of South Africa. Outlying neighborhoods and satellite cities of the rapidly growing metropolitan area stretch south and along the Cape Peninsula to False Bay (Vaalsbaai). The old part of the city, with its tall buildings and scattered slums, is situated between Mesa Bay to the north and the steep slopes of Mount Mesa (1,086 m) to the south. Several lower mountains, such as Lion’s Head to the southwest and Signal Hill to the west, tower over the city facing the Atlantic Ocean. Cape Town is a popular holiday resort famous for the beauty of its landscapes and magnificent beaches.


Port activities are concentrated in a huge man-made harbor located in Mesa Bay and equipped with dry docks and modern loading and unloading facilities. It is a regular port of call for freight and passenger ships coming from the Cape of Good Hope in the south. The main exports are gold, diamonds and citrus. The largest industries are in oil refining, shipbuilding and repair, diamond cutting, printing, food preparation, and leather goods manufacturing.

Places of interest

Mount Mesa, with its cable car service to the top, overlooks the city and is an excellent place to take in the surroundings. Historic sights include the Castle, Cape Town’s oldest building (begun 1665), the Dutch Reformed Church (begun 1699), the Old Town House (1755), and the old buildings. Dutch style and the mosques of the Malay quarter of Signal Hill.

Other highlights include the Parliament buildings, the South African Museum (1825), the South African National Gallery (1871), the great Michaelis Collection of 17th century Dutch and Flemish paintings, and the South African Library. The University of Cape Town (1829) is located within the city, and the University of the Western Cape (1960) is on the outskirts.

Cape Town, South Africa City Overview

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