1940 – 1994

In the late 1940s the city bowl area of Cape Town was still relatively unscathed by either apartheid removals or the visions of town planners. The reclaimed foreshore remained devoid of skyscrapers, car parks, broad boulevards and flyovers. Woodstock and Paarden Island beaches retained their role as recreational areas for the inhabitants of working-class areas like District Six, most of who continued to live close to their places of work, as well as all the amenities of the city centre.

The decline of traditional occupations – which included the virtual disappearance of jobs involved with horse-powered transportation – was largely the result of technological change that had gathered pace in the twentieth century. Only four horse-drawn cabs remained in the city by 1950. By 1946 Wingfield airport offered a regular service to Britain and a daily, ‘non-stop’ one to Johannesburg. In 1954 a new airport, D.F. Malan, was opened near Bellville. New categories of jobs naturally accompanied these developments.

In the centre of Stalplein, on Plein Street, stands an equestrian statue of General Louis Botha in full military uniform. He was elected the first Prime Minister of the Transvaal in 1907. In 1910 he was chosen as the first Premier of the Union of South Africa. He signed the Peace Treaty of Versailles on behalf of South Africa in 1919, at the end of the First World War. He died in the same year near Pretoria at the age of 57.

1947 17th February The Royal Family arrive in Cape Town harbour aboard HMS Vanguard, on their visit to South Africa. King George VI, Queen Elizabeth, and their two daughters, Elizabeth and Margaret received a tumultuous welcome. During his stay in Cape Town, the King awarded General Smuts with the Order of Merit and on the 21st of February. His Majesty opened the Fourth Session of the Ninth Union Parliament. Cape Town was illuminated and festooned with decorations in honour of the Royal Family who, in addition to fulfilling many other functions, attended a Civic Ball in the City Hall.

1848 Dr. Robert Gray, the first Bishop of Cape Town, arrived in Cape Town. At that time, the St George’s Street church attained the title of Cathedral. He establishes the bishops school in Rondebosch, and the Zomnnebloem College in Disrtict Six.

Bishop Gray Monument at the top of St George’s Mall.

Inscribed :

“Erected by Public subscription in memory of

Robert Gray D. D. First Bishop of Cape Town

and Metropolitan

Consecrated St Peter’s Day 1847 Deceased September 1st 1872″


The monument stands over 7 metres high. The architect was William Butterfield. The statue was first erected in Wale Street in 1876. A plaque on the pavement in Wale Street, indicates the spot, where it stood in front of the old cathedral until street improvement necessitated its re-positioning in the Cathedral grounds, and later to its present position. The present metal cross appears to be a replacement for the much larger original cross.

1949 The Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act is one of the first items of racial legislation passed by the ruling National Party. In an attempt to preserve white racial ‘purity’, it forbade future marriages between whites and people of other races. It was repealed in 1985.

1950 Group Areas Act is passed. This law enabled the state to declare any defined area for occupation, and property ownership, by members of a single race, as defined in the Population Registration Act. Exceptions were made only for servants or other employees of residents. The Act only became fully effective after numerous amendments to it in the 1950s. This gave the state full powers to forcibly remove property owners.

1950 Bureau Street is widened to relieve the traffic bottleneck. The Consistory building on the opposite side is demolished, to accommodate this.

1960 The Dias Statue which now stands at the bottom of the Heerengracht, is unveiled on a temporary site in the Company Gardens, opposite the National Gallary. It was a gift from the Portugese Government to the people of South Africa, to commemorate the tercentenary celebrations of the landing of Jan van Riebeeck. The artist was Profesor Barata, and the pedestal by the architect Fernandes de Sa.

1966 District six is declared a White Group Area. The District Six museum was formerly known as the Buitenkant Street Methodist Church. Itserved the people of District Six and was a thriving congregation until District Six was declared a White Group Area in 1966. Thousands of people were forcibly removed from their homes. During this time of upheaval the congregation participated in the growing resistance to apartheid and in particular to the destruction of District Six. A Plaque of Shame was mounted on the church building to remind passers-by of the injustice that bad taken place (the plaque is still in place). Despite attempts to break the spirit of the people through forced removals, detention and harassment, the congregation continued to commute from the suburbs to Buitenkant Street on Sundays and a lively congregation of more than 100 people still worshipped regularly in the late 1980s.

The congregation never lost its passion for caring for people, and in 1976 the Stepping Stones Children’s Centre was started to cater for the children of working parents. In later years the church was a venue for many anti-apartheid meetings.

These two congregations maintained their separate witness until 1988 when they decided to amalgamate and form the Central Methodist Mission. This commitment to be obedient to God’s call to unity has borne much fruit, and today a vibrant congregation with more than 200 members worship at the church on Greenmarket Square. The Buitenkant Street church accommodates a number of outreach projects to the people of the city, including the Ons Plek Shelter for Female Street Children, Stepping Stones Children’s Centre and the District Six Museum.

1967 The Slave Lodge is renamed the SA Cultural History Museum.

It houses collections of ceramics, toys, silver and textiles, as well as artefacts from ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome, the near East and the Far East. It also has the People’s Collection and displays on Cape history, Khoi herders, African money and slavery.

In the courtyard, the tombstones of Jan van Riebeeck and his wife Maria de la Quellirie can be seen. These tomdstones were discovered in Batavia, where he was buried. It shows the three rings of his family crest, incorporated in the original Cape Town Coat of Arms.

Steps to the only existing Dutch East India Company slave cellar were recently unearthed. Delinquent slaves were kept here in dark and damp conditions.

1974 26th January The “new” statue of the Statesman Jan Smuts, in front of the the Slave lodge in Adderley Street, is unveiled. When the controversial statue modelled by Sydney Harpley, A.R.C.A., A.R.B.S., was unveiled in the Cape Town Gardens, in 1964, there was an immediate outcry by all sections of the public. It was decided that a statue more acceptable to the man-in-the-street be erected. Field-Marshal Jan Christiaan Smuts was born near Riebeeck West, in the Western cape, in 1870.

1975 The Golden Acre Shopping complex is built on the site of the old railway station, that was demolished in the 1960’s. This most valuable land, in the heart of the central business district, lay dormant for many years. In 1973 it was bought by the insurance giant SANLAM, who erected the shopping mall and office block on the site. At the time it was the first underground shopping mall in South Africa.

During excavations of the the Shopping complex, ruins of a the reservoir, built by Governor Zacharias Wagenaar, in 1663, was discovered. Part of the ruins was excavated by the SA Museum, and can be viewd by the public. The reservoir is the oldest remaining Dutch structure in South Africa.

Black tiles on the floor in in the mall indicate the waterline where land was reclaimed from the sea in 1935.

In order to establish a permanent means for checking land surveyor’s chains, the astronomer, Sir Thomas McClear, sank two cannons vertically into the original Parade Ground in 1837. One of these was also discovered during the excavations, and is displayed, against a pillar inside the main shopping complex, at the Adderley Street entrance.

2000 August, The new South African Jewish Museum is completed, at a cost of R9 million. It comprises an area of 1227m2, and is one of the most state of the art museums in the Country.

1990 December the V&A Waterfront shopping complex is opened to the public.

1990 11 February, Nelson Mandela, incarcerated for 26 years, is unconditionally released. With his wife Winnie at his side, he walked to freedom through the gates of the Victor Verster prison, outside Paarl.

The emergence of the grey-suited, white-haired, dignified leader was witnessed by millions around the world, and greeted with rapture by black, and many white, people throughout South Africa.

Mandela was driven to Cape Town’s Grand Parade, where a vast crowd had gathered. Some had been waiting for up to twelve hours. He finally appeared on the balcony of the City Hall to roars of ‘Viva’ and ‘Amandla’, but there were few fireworks in his address. He stressed that he will remain a loyal and disciplined member of the ANC, and that the armed struggle must go on, but struck a conciliatory note in acknowledging that President de Klerk had taken ‘real steps to normalize the situation’.

He called on ‘our white compatriots to join us in the shaping of a new South Africa’.

1994 The Nelson Mandela Plaque is erected at the City Hall. The plaque, made of Robben Island slate, is set into the wall, below the steps, where he addressed the Nation for the first time, after his release from prison.

1994 South Africans of all colours cast their votes in the country’s first ever fully democratic elections and did so free of fear.

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