HOME

TheInfoList




The Cape Flats ( af, Die Kaapse Vlakte) is an expansive, low-lying, flat area situated to the southeast of the central business district of
Cape Town Cape Town (Afrikaans: Kaapstad ; Xhosa language, Xhosa: ''iKapa;'') is the second-most populous city in South Africa, after Johannesburg, and also the legislative Capital city, capital of South Africa. Colloquially named the Mother City, it is ...

Cape Town
.


Geology and geography

In geological terms, the area is essentially a vast sheet of aeolian sand, ultimately of marine origin, which has blown up from the adjacent beaches over a period on the order of a hundred thousand years. Below the sand, the bedrock is in general the Malmesbury Shale, except on part of the western margin between
Zeekoevlei Zeekoevlei is a major freshwater Fresh water (or freshwater) is any naturally occurring water Water is an Inorganic compound, inorganic, Transparency and translucency, transparent, tasteless, odorless, and Color of water, nearly col ...
to the south and Claremont and Wetton to the north, where an intrusive mass of Cape Granite is to be found. To the west the expanse of the Cape Flats is limited by rising ground that slopes up to the steep cliffs of the
Cape Peninsula The Cape Peninsula ( af, Kaapse Skiereiland) is a generally rocky peninsula A peninsula ( la, paeninsula from ' "almost" and ' "island") is a landform surrounded by water on most of its border while being connected to a mainland from which i ...

Cape Peninsula
mountain chain (see the photograph on the left), while in the east the land rises gradually towards the equally rugged cliffs of
Hottentots Holland The Hottentots Holland Mountains are part of the Cape Fold Belt and its relationship to the Cape Fold Mountains in the south. The portion of the Great Escarpment shown in red is known as the Drakensberg. The Cape Fold Belt is a fold and thru ...
mountains and other elevated regions of the interior of the Boland. Most of the sand is unconsolidated; however, in some places near the False Bay coast the oldest sand dunes have been cemented into a soft sandstone. These formations contain important fossils of animals such as the extinct Cape lion and also provide evidence that stone-age people hunted here tens of thousands of years ago. The area has a
Mediterranean climate A Mediterranean climate or dry summer climate is characterized by dry summers and mild, wet winters. The climate Climate is the long-term pattern of weather Weather is the state of the atmosphere, describing for example the degre ...
, with warm dry summers and cool, damp winters. It is generally exposed to the wind, both from the NW (winter) and SE (summer). Flooding can be a problem, especially in July and August. Cold wet spells, especially in August and September, can make life very difficult for those living in sub-standard housing.


History


Before 1950

The noted English naturalist,
William John Burchell __NOTOC__ William John Burchell (23 July 1781 – 23 March 1863) was an English explorer Exploration is the act of searching for the purpose of discovery Discovery may refer to: * Discovery (observation) Discovery is the act of detecti ...

William John Burchell
, remarked in 1811 that the deep sand of the Flats made travel by cart or wagon extremely difficult. The situation was aggravated by a widespread shortage of firewood, causing fuel collectors to cut the relatively few indigenous shrubs and trees that stabilised the sand. During the second half of the 19th century, the area was completely overrun by alien vegetation, mainly of Australian origin. The plants included
hakea ''Hakea'' is a genus Genus /ˈdʒiː.nəs/ (plural genera /ˈdʒen.ər.ə/) is a taxonomic rank In biological classification In biology, taxonomy () is the scientific study of naming, defining (Circumscription (taxonomy), circumscri ...
s and especially wattles (genus
Acacia ''Acacia'', commonly known as the wattles or acacias, is a large genus Genus /ˈdʒiː.nəs/ (plural genera /ˈdʒen.ər.ə/) is a taxonomic rank In biological classification In biology, taxonomy () is the scientific study of nam ...

Acacia
). The principal reason for this infestation lay in decisions made by the colonial authorities. It was an era before the advent of modern technological methods for the construction of permanent roads and in those days the Cape Flats was a massive sea of unstabilised sand dunes that moved at will before the winds. This made travel between Cape Town and the interior very difficult, particularly for the large ox-drawn wagons of the time. The authorities decided to try to stabilise the sand with plants native to the British colonies of
New South Wales New South Wales (abbreviated as NSW) is a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ''The State'' (newspape ...
and Western Australia. The earliest importation of wattles was in 1827. Massive plantings were established in the 1840s and 1850s and the work continued until well after 1875. At the time, the plan worked well enough: the march of the dunes was arrested. The price paid, in ecological terms, was that the Cape Flats was carpeted by
invasive species An invasive species is an introduced organism that becomes overpopulated and negatively alters its new environment. Although their spread can have beneficial aspects, invasive species adversely affect the invaded habitat Ibex in an ...
. Serious efforts have in recent years been made to roll back this alien scourge.


Since 1950

The Cape Flats has undergone revolutionary change in the past half a century. In 1950 the area was practically uninhabited. There was a single, narrow road across the Flats from Cape Town to The
Strand Strand may refer to: Topography *The flat area of land bordering a body of water, a: ** Beach ** Shoreline *Strand swamp, a type of swamp habitat in Florida Places Africa *Strand, Western Cape, a seaside town in South Africa *Strand Street, ...
that ran between walls of alien rooikrans bushes and one could travel for miles without seeing any sign of habitation other that a few fences and a handful of farmhouses. Native antelope roamed at will between the dense thickets of wattles. The army used the area for military exercises and the few farmers who inhabited the Flats eked out a living by growing vegetables in pockets of relatively poor soil between the barren dunes. Modern amenities were unknown; telephones were unknown, drinking water was collected in tanks from roofs and at night the rooms were lit by oil lamps. The era of sand and antelopes vanished completely in little more than a generation. Vegetable farming persisted, but to a much lesser extent, because urbanisation enveloped vast tracts of land in short order. During the
apartheid Apartheid (South African English South African English (SAfrE, SAfrEng, SAE, en-ZA) is the set of English language dialects native to South Africans. History British British may refer to: Peoples, culture, and language * B ...

apartheid
era, race-based legislation such as the
Group Areas Act Group Areas Act was the title of three acts The Acts of the Apostles ( grc-koi, Πράξεις Ἀποστόλων, ''Práxeis Apostólōn''; la, Actūs Apostolōrum), often referred to simply as Acts, or formally the Book of Acts, is the f ...
and
pass laws In South Africa, pass laws were a form of internal passport system designed to Racial segregation, segregate the population, manage urbanization, and allocate migrant labor. Also known as the natives' law, pass laws severely limited the movement ...
either forced non-white people out of more central urban areas designated for white people and into government-built townships in the Cape Flats, or made living in the area illegal, forcing many people into informal settlements elsewhere in the Cape Flats. Large housing projects were built here, mostly as part of the Nationalist government's larger effort to force the so-called
Coloured Coloureds ( af, Kleurlinge or , ) are a multiracial people, multiracial ethnic group Indigenous peoples of Africa, native to Southern Africa who have ancestry from more than one of the various populations inhabiting the region, including Khoi ...
community out of the central and western areas of Cape Town, which were designated as white areas under the
Group Areas Act Group Areas Act was the title of three acts The Acts of the Apostles ( grc-koi, Πράξεις Ἀποστόλων, ''Práxeis Apostólōn''; la, Actūs Apostolōrum), often referred to simply as Acts, or formally the Book of Acts, is the f ...
. This meant that only whites could reside there permanently; as under the apartheid system black Africans were officially citizens of the independent homelands, regarded as temporary migrant workers, therefore having resident worker status. However, since many of the mostly
Xhosa Xhosa may refer to: * Xhosa people, a nation, and ethnic group, who live in south-central and southeasterly region of South Africa * Xhosa language, one of the 11 official languages of South Africa, principally spoken by the Xhosa people See also ...
initial migrant workers bore children, these children who were born and raised in the Cape Town area—were designated under apartheid as residents of
Bantustans A Bantustan (also known as Bantu Bantu may refer to: *Bantu languages, constitute the largest sub-branch of the Niger–Congo languages *Bantu peoples, over 400 peoples of Africa speaking a Bantu language *Afro-textured hair#Styling, Bantu k ...
, many were obliged to live in the area illegally, further contributing to the growth of informal settlements. Apartheid did not anticipate the eventuality of black migrant workers not returning to their homelands, effectively not permitting naturalization. Additionally, other large townships of black people (such as
Khayelitsha Khayelitsha () is a township (South Africa), township in Western Cape, South Africa, on the Cape Flats in the City of Cape Town. The name is Xhosa language, Xhosa for ''New Home''. It is reputed to be the largest
and
Gugulethu Gugulethu (misspelt as "Guguletu" when it was officially named) is a township ''Township'' refers to various kinds of settlements or administrative subdivisions in different countries. While a ''township'' may be associated with an urban area, ...

Gugulethu
) grew up on the flats as a product of mostly informal settlement, but also forced government relocations to a lesser extent. These consisted in the main of shacks made of "tin" (in reality corrugated iron which, confusingly, is nowadays made from mild steel), cardboard and wood. In 1993, Cape Town had a housing backlog of approximately 40 000 houses and with the numbers of people migrating from the rural areas increasing each year, so the backlog increases. One of the major priorities of the RDP ( Reconstruction & Development Programme) is to build houses."Townships of the Cape Flats"
Welcome to the Cape Flats.
Since the end of apartheid, these communities are no longer legally bound by racial restrictions; but history, language, economics and ethnic politics still contribute to homogeneity of local areas. So, for example, most residents of
Mitchell's Plain and Philippi as well. Image:Cape-Town-Taxis.jpg, 250px, Taxis from Cape Town station to Mitchells Plain Mitchells Plain is a township in the Western Cape, South Africa about from the city of Cape Town. It is one of South Africa's largest townshi ...
likely still speak a locally inflected version of
Afrikaans Afrikaans (, ) is a West Germanic language spoken in South Africa South Africa, officially the Republic of South Africa (RSA), is the southernmost country in Africa. With over 60 million people, it is the world's 23rd-most po ...
, along with English and either they or their parents were designated as Coloured by apartheid; most residents of Khayelitsha still speak
Xhosa Xhosa may refer to: * Xhosa people, a nation, and ethnic group, who live in south-central and southeasterly region of South Africa * Xhosa language, one of the 11 official languages of South Africa, principally spoken by the Xhosa people See also ...
and English and either they or their parents were designated as Black by apartheid. Nonetheless, some areas of the Cape Flats have an increasing diversity of residents, with Xhosa-speaking people an increasingly noticeable presence in some previously mainly Afrikaans-speaking areas.


Culture and politics

Its music spans from the serious-minded jazz of
Abdullah Ibrahim Abdullah Ibrahim (born Adolph Johannes Brand on 9 October 1934 and formerly known as Dollar Brand) is a South African pianist and composer. His music reflects many of the musical influences of his childhood in the multicultural port areas of Cap ...

Abdullah Ibrahim
and
Basil Coetzee Basil "Manenberg" Coetzee (2 February 1944 – 11 March 1998) was a South Africa South Africa, officially the Republic of South Africa (RSA), is the southernmost country in Africa. With over 60 million people, it is the world's 23r ...
and their anthem " Mannenberg" (named after a Cape Flats township), to the bubbly pop hits of Brenda Fassie; and continues in a new
hip-hop Hip hop or hip-hop is a culture Culture () is an umbrella term which encompasses the social behavior Social behavior is behavior among two or more organisms within the same species, and encompasses any behavior in which one member a ...
movement. Its religious communities include (to name only a few), Afrikaans-speaking congregations of the
Dutch Reformed Church The Dutch Reformed Church (, abbreviated NHK) was the largest Christian denomination in the Netherlands from the onset of the Protestant Reformation until 1930. It was the foremost Protestant denomination, and—since 1892—one of the two maj ...

Dutch Reformed Church
,
Rastafarian Rastafari, also known as the Rastafari movement or Rastafarianism, is a religion that developed in Jamaica during the 1930s. It is classified as both a new religious movement and a social movement by Religious studies, scholars of religion. Th ...
communities, people who engage only in traditional Xhosa practices,
syncretic Syncretism is the combining of different beliefs and various schools of thought A school of thought, or intellectual tradition, is the perspective of a group of people who share common characteristics of opinion or outlook of a philosophy, Li ...
Xhosa Christian churches,
evangelical Evangelicalism (), also called evangelical Christianity, or evangelical Protestantism, is a worldwide trans-denominational movement within Protestant Christianity Protestantism is a form of Christianity that originated with the 16th-century ...
Christian churches, and southern Africa's largest
Muslim Muslims () are people who follow or practice Islam Islam (; ar, اَلْإِسْلَامُ, al-’Islām, "submission o God Oh God may refer to: * An exclamation; similar to "oh no", "oh yes", "oh my", "aw goodness", "ah gosh", ...

Muslim
community (drawing its oldest roots from the historic
Cape Muslim Cape Malays () also known as Cape Muslims or Malays, are a Muslim community or ethnic group in South Africa. They are the descendants of enslaved and free Muslims from different parts of the world who lived at the Cape during Dutch Cape Colony, D ...
community, which dates back to the 17th century). In the 1940s, a type of dental modification known as a '' passion gap'' became fashionable and remains popular today. The modification involves the removal of a person's top front teeth. Its political history is complex and sometimes baffling even to insiders: for instance, the politics of the Coloured communities of the Cape Flats have included
Trotskyist Trotskyism is the political ideology and branch of Marxism developed by Ukrainian-Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky and by some other members of the Left Opposition and Fourth International. Trotsky self-identified as an Orthodox Marxism, orth ...
activism in earlier years, and mobilisation for the United Democratic Front in the 80s; and then, widespread support for the historically white National Party (which had presided over apartheid) in the early post-apartheid elections. More recently, the area has seen an expansion of
African National Congress The African National Congress (ANC) is the Republic of South Africa South Africa, officially the Republic of South Africa (RSA), is the southernmost country in Africa Africa is the world's second-largest and second-most populo ...
strength from its base in the black townships and into historically Coloured areas , as well as a particularly strong local growth of left-wing social movements like the
Treatment Action Campaign The Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) is a South Africa South Africa, officially the Republic of South Africa (RSA), is the southernmost country in Africa. With over Demographics of South Africa, 59 million people, it is the world's List ...
which offer a critique of government policies.


Crime

Cape Flats is one of the most violent places in South Africa. Violent Islamist movements have emerged from Cape Flats communities, along with other notable figures within the
Muslim Muslims () are people who follow or practice Islam Islam (; ar, اَلْإِسْلَامُ, al-’Islām, "submission o God Oh God may refer to: * An exclamation; similar to "oh no", "oh yes", "oh my", "aw goodness", "ah gosh", ...

Muslim
community, such as Fareed Ishaq, who embody an ecumenical strain of religious progressivism. Almost all of the communities of the Cape Flats remain, to one degree or another, poverty stricken. Serious social problems include a high rate of unemployment and disturbing levels of
gang A gang is a group A group is a number A number is a mathematical object used to counting, count, measurement, measure, and nominal number, label. The original examples are the natural numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, and so forth. Numbers can be repre ...

gang
activity. During the late 1990s and early 2000s, there was significant armed conflict between various gangs and PAGAD (People Against Gangsterism and Drugs), a vigilante organisation. Post-apartheid development projects, such as the RDP, have also led to violent conflicts within communities. As of 2014, efforts to combat gangs include Hanover Park’s Ceasefire programme, where former gang members "use their experiences to mediate gang disputes and help young men and women quit gang life. The gang violence escalated to the point where the South African National Defence Force had to be deployed to the gang ridden areas of the Cape Flats to help the provincial police force deal with the increasing gang violence. A wide range of community empowerment organisations work non-violently to combat poverty, crime and health problems, and the role of civil society in many parts of the area is relatively strickening.


Natural habitats on the Cape Flats

*Cape Flats Dune Strandveld – ''habitat'' *Cape Flats Sand Fynbos – ''habitat''


Suburbs on the Cape Flats

*Bonteheuwel *Elsie's River, Elsies River *
Khayelitsha Khayelitsha () is a township (South Africa), township in Western Cape, South Africa, on the Cape Flats in the City of Cape Town. The name is Xhosa language, Xhosa for ''New Home''. It is reputed to be the largest
*Manenberg *Hanover Park, Cape Town, Hanover Park *Mitchells Plain


See also

* List of nature reserves in Cape Town * Nyanga, Cape Town * Mfuleni * Crossroads, Cape Town * Delft, Cape Town


References


External links


Cape Flats Details
An extensive photojournalism project on the area and its people.
Capeflats.org
A personal web site with an overview of the language, politics and culture of the area.
CAFDA
The Cape Flats Development Association's website.
Cape Flats tourism
A government Cape Flats tourism initiative hopes to bring more visitors.
CapeFlatsNature.org
Organisation aims to organise impoverished residents to help sustain areas of biodiversity.

The website of the Cape Flats Nature Reserve.

June 2003 paper on "The social contradictions of organised crime on the Cape Flats".
The Cape Flats Website
{{coord, 34, 0, S, 18, 40, E, region:ZA-WC_type:city(2000000), display=title Geologic formations with imbedded sand dunes Geology of South Africa Geography of Cape Town Geologic formations of Africa