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People, architecture, culture, commerce, wars, myths and legends... from 100,000BC until today.

Two of our favourite stories:
In 1995, the imprint of a footprint was found embedded in rock on Cape Town's West Coast.  Analysis dated it as being 117,000 years old – an example of the earliest modern man.  But then, it was identified as belonging to a woman... so it became known as "Eve's Footprint".

One African scholar says Afrika (the spelling that occurs most frequently throughout "Afrika") derives from the ancient "Afuri-ka" that means "the continent of God".

 Cape Events   National & World Events
100 000 BC The south-western Cape was inhabited by people who hunted, used stone tools and fire.    
18 000 BC Even though the Ice Age had reached its peak, it is unlikely that the Cape was covered with ice, but winter temperatures were possibly 10°C lower than presently experienced. The sea was about 120 metres below its current level as a result of large parts of seawater being frozen elsewhere. As a result of a wetter climate, the Cape Flats was home to rich forests.    
8 000 BC The inhabitants of the Cape had progressed to hunting with bows and arrows.   3000 BC: First pyramids in Egypt
2 600 BC Phoenician mariners circumnavigated Africa on a mission by Egyptian Pharaoh Necho II.    
2 000 BC Migration of inland tribes occurred, bringing agricultural skills to the Cape.   50 BC: Julius Caesar invades British Isles
300 AD Some of the Cape inhabitants owned fat-tailed sheep, thought to have originated in East Central Africa.   0 AD: Birth of Jesus Christ
1486 Bartholomew Diaz, a Portuguese explorer, discovered the Cape. Vasco da Gama, also from Portugal, rounded the Peninsula in 1497. The goal was to find a trade route between Europe and the East.    
1503 Table Mountain is given the name Taboa do cabo (Table of the Cape) by Antonio da Saldanha, a Portuguese admiral and explorer. The original name given by the first Khoi inhabitants was Hoeri ‘kwaggo (Sea Mountain).    
1652 Jan van Riebeeck and other employees of the Dutch East India Company were sent to the Cape to establish a halfway station to provide fresh water, vegetables and meat for passing ships travelling to and from the East. Jan van Riebeeck's party of three vessels landed at the Cape on 6 April 1652.
Jan van Riebeeck and his men erected shelters and laid out vegetable gardens and orchards. The Company Gardens are part of the original gardens and are situated at the top of Adderley Street in Government Avenue. Water from the Fresh River which descended from Table Mountain was channelled into canals to provide irrigation. The settlers bartered with the native inhabitants for their sheep and cattle. Forests in Hout Bay and south and east of the mountain provided timber for ships and houses. The Dutch East India Company had the monopoly on trade and prohibited any private trade.
The people encountered by the settlers were short and fairly hairless with yellow-brown skin, and the females of the tribes had prominent buttocks. Some people had sheep and cattle, which are also though to have originated in East Central Africa. The pastoralists were named "Hottentots" by the settlers. The people found along the beaches who subsisted on shellfishing were named "Strandlopers" and the groups of people restricted to hunting and gathering were named "Bushmen".
From as early as the mid-seventeenth century many animals were encountered in the Cape Peninsula. Some of these include the Cape Buffalo, elephant, hippopotamus, black rhinoceros, leopard, brown hyena, spotted hyaena, hunting dog, black-maned Cape Lion, black-backed jackal, silver fox, baboon, red hartebeest, eland, grysbok, klipspringer, duiker, bushbuck, aardvark, steenbok, rhebok, mongoose, genet, wildcat, hyrax and seal. Large birds found here were ostriches, secretary birds, black eagles and penguins.
1654 The first Asians arrived at the Cape. They were banished here by the High Court in Batavia. These Asians contributed to the enlargement of the Cape Coloured population as well as the spread of Islam in the Cape.   1654: New York, USA, is founded after the land was bought from native Americans for a few trinkets.
1657 Farms were granted by the Company to a few servants in an attempt to increase productivity. The farms were situated on farmland along the Liesbeeck River and the Company still retained financial control of them. The first slaves were imported to the Cape from Java and Madagascar.    
1658 Conflict erupted between the settlers and the Hottentots, who had begun to realise that territory previously theirs had been lost to them.    
1662 Jan van Riebeeck left the Cape on promotion to a position on the Council of Justice in Batavia. He later went on to become a Commander in Malacca.    
1666 Work commenced on a fortress, known as the Castle, which replaced the previous wooden fort built by Van Riebeeck and his men. The Castle was completed in 1679 and is the oldest building in South Africa. It originally stood on the beach, and it is only since reclaiming the Foreshore begun in 1943 that it is now a distance from the sea. It is star-shaped and has bastions at each point, which were named after the titles of the Dutch Prince of Orange, as follows: Oranje (south west), Leerdam (west), Buren (north), Catzenellenbogen (east), and Nassau (south east). Aside from being used as a fortress against invasion from the sea, the Castle also served as headquarters of the Dutch East India Company and was the residence of the Governor of the Cape. In 1917 it was handed over to the South African Defence Force and is still used as the headquarters of the Cape Command. In 1936 the Castle was proclaimed a National Monument. Some famous prisoners incarcerated in the Castle over the centuries include rebel burghers Adam Tas and Van der Linden (who had incurred the wrath of Governor W A van der Stel for opposing his autocratic rule). Lady Ann Barnard, a liberated woman before her time known for being an intrepid explorer and famous for her love of bathing, also resided at the Castle during the British occupation of the Cape. An elegant reminder of this period is the De Kat balcony designed by sculptor Anton Anreith. The Castle is filled with many art treasurers, including furniture, VOC china and glassware, and a collection of paintings assembled by William Fehr which includes 22 oil paintings by the famous artist Thomas Baines.    
1679 Simon van der Stel arrived to govern in the Cape. The beautiful town of Stellenbosch is named after him. Simon van der Stel was the founding father of the Cape wine industry. He was a dynamic commander promoted colonial-style expansion, as per his instructions from the Company.    
1685 Simon van der Stel was granted a 900-morgen property by the Company. This home and winefarm was named Groot Constantia, and was built by Louis Thibault, an architect whose name is associated with many early Cape buildings. Groot Constantia is thus the oldest wine estate at the Cape. It has been rebuilt after a fire and is a prime example of Cape Dutch architecture. The cellar is renowned for its sculptures by Anton Anreith.    
1688 The Huguenots arrived at the Cape. They had fled from anti-Protestant persecution in Catholic France to Holland where they were offered by the Company free passage to the Cape and farmland. The Huguenots made an important contribution to the Cape's wine industry.    
1689 Serious friction developed between the Huguenots and the Dutch. The Huguenots had not been recognised as a separate group and felt dissatisfied that they had been randomly placed among the Dutch.    
1693 The road to Hout Bay via Constantia Nek was completed.    
1699 William Adriaan van der Stel (son of Simon) was appointed Governor. His rule was harshly corrupt and discriminatory.    
1707 Colonists, after a long struggle, were successful in having Willem Adriaan van der Stel recalled to Holland. The strong animosity between the French and Dutch colonists dissolved in the wake of the hardships equally endured under Willem's rule.    
1737 On 21 May, nine ships were wrecked in a gale in Table Bay. 208 Lives were lost.    
1743 The Governor-General of the Dutch East Indies, Von Imhoff, visited the Cape. A site at Simon's Bay was chosen to be used as a harbour between mid-May and mid-August. This would reduce damage in Table Bay caused by the winter storms.    
1754 There were 5 510 Europeans and 6 279 slaves in the Cape.    
1780 England and France were at war, with the Netherlands on the French side. French troops were therefore sent to the Cape to guard it against the English.    
1784 The French troops departed once again for home.   1789: The start of the French Revolution.
1793: War declared by victorious French revolutionaries against the Dutch Prince of Orange. Britain went to war against France.
1795 The Cape Commissioner at the time, Sluysken, as a result of the long time it took to send news from Europe to the Cape, only knew that the French had been making headway into the Netherlands but the Dutch could at any moment change sides. News hadn't yet reached him of the latest events. British forces arrived at the Cape bringing with them a letter from the Prince of Orange asking Sluysken to allow the Cape to be protected from the French by the British until the war was over, and the British informed him that the Prince had fled to England, thus misrepresenting him to the Dutch. The Cape Council was Orangist but recognised its allegiance belonged with the mother country, and Sluysken thus procrastinated. The British won the Battle of Muizenberg after landing at Simon's Bay, taking the Cape. The start of free trade was announced.   1795: The Dutch East India Company was in financial ruins. The Netherlands was invaded by the French, and a republic was declared by Dutch revolutionaires. The Prince of Orange fled to England, and the way was cleared for the establishment of the Dutch Batavian Republic. The French and Dutch were united against Britain.
1797 The first British Governor, Earl Macartney, arrived at the Cape. As his wife stayed behind in England, Lady Anne Barnard, his secretary's wife, did his entertaining and started a social whirl in the Cape.    
1802 A fragile peace was concluded between England and France. The Cape was handed back to the Dutch. Jan Willem Janssens, the new Governor, ruled the Cape for three years.    
1805 France and Britain at war again, and the British once again set sail for the Cape as the Batavians were still allied with France.    
1806 The British landed at Losperds Bay, between Bloubergstrand and Melkbosstrand. Governor Jan Willem Janssens capitulated.    
1809 The British Governor, Caledon, declared that the Hottentots had to have a fixed residence and could not migrate between regions without written authority.    
1811 Taps and iron pipes were installed along the Cape's main streets. Water was still provided from wells or the Parade fountain.    
1814 Holland had reverted to a monarchy and the French had been defeated by the British. Britain engineered a complex peace treaty, whereby various pieces of real estate and amounts of money were exchanged for various countries. The Cape was permanently taken from the Dutch by the British in return for a large sum of money. The British saw the Cape as a key to India. The Dutch were too impoverished and depleted and agreed to be allowed to continue to use the Cape for repairs and refreshment. The new governor was Lord Charles Somerset.    
1822 A programme was inaugurated by Somerset to abolish Dutch, and make English the only official language.    
1824 The first newspaper was published - The South African Commercial Advertiser - and Somerset became involved in tussles with the paper about freedom of the press and clashed with missionary Dr Philip, who preached freedom for the Hottentots.    
1826 Governor Somerset left the Cape under a cloud of bad feelings.    
1828 The vagrancy and pass laws were abolished. The Hottentots, in theory, shared equality with the Europeans.    
1834 The emancipation of the slaves, estimated to be in the region of 39 000. This led to the establishment of Bo-Kaap, or 'upper city', by a Muslim community after being freed from slavery. This year also saw the start of a Legislative Council.    
1836 The start of the Great Trek. About 10 000 Dutch families, unable to adapt to the progressive changes brought about by the freedom of the slaves and the new authority, went north in search of new land, thereby opening up the interior. Elected municipal councils was provided for by the Legislative Council.    
1838 A municipality was formed covering the Green Point-Sea Point area.    
1840 The Cape Town Municipality was formed. The population stood at 20 016, of which 10 560 were Whites.    
1845 The road to Stellenbosch through the Maitland area was completed.    
1849 The proposal by the British to send a ship of convicts to the Colony was strongly objected to by the Cape population. The shipment was successfully stopped and the name of the Heerengracht was changed to Adderley Street, after a British MP who had supported their cause. The convicts went to Australia.    
1859 The first railway was started. It's route was from Cape Town to Stellenbosch, Paarl and Wellington.    
1860 Construction of the first of the Table Bay docks, Alfred Dock, was started.    
1863 The first tramway company in Cape Town, the 'Cape Town and Green Point Tramway Company', commenced operations with a horse-drawn service running on rails from the foot of Adderley Street and out along Somerset Road to Green Point.    
1867 The Cape Town Municipality Amendment Act, granting full municipal government, was enacted by the Cape Colonial Parliament. It made provision for 18 town councillors and a council chairman, elected by the Council as Mayor.    
1870 Completion of Alfred Dock.    
1879 The Cape Town City Council authorised a second tramways company, the 'City Tramways Company Limited', to operate a similar horse-drawn service, initially out to Green Point and Sea Point, and later to the Gardens and the southern suburbs.    
1880 Cape Town was linked telegraphically to Europe by means of an overseas cable.    
1882 The Dutch language was once again admitted as an official language alongside English.    
1884 The official inauguration of the Houses of Parliament, designed by Charles Freeman.    
1887 Victoria Road to Hout Bay was completed. A toll-house was erected where Victoria Road joined up with Kloof Road from Sea Point. Toll was collected until about 1900.    
1890 The ambitious project of paving the streets of Cape Town was started.    
1894 The Cape Town City Council granted the right to a local businessman, Henry Butters, to build and operate the first electric tramway company through the city.    
1895 The Metropolitan Tramways Company was formed. The inauguration of the Graaff Electric Lighting Works at the Molteno reservoir was held, followed by the official switching on of the street lights at the Town House, Greenmarket Square.    
1896 The first electric tram service in Cape Town was officially inaugurated by Lady Sivewright, when she started the first tram on its maiden run through a flag-bedecked Adderley Street to Mowbray Hill.    
1899 Green Point Common was established as a military camp.   Outbreak of the Anglo-Boer War.
1901 The extension of the electric tramline between Camps Bay and Sea Point was opened.    
1902 The electric tramline public service was extended to a Kloof Nek line. Work commenced on the new power station in Dock Road, near the docks, known as the Central Power and Lighting Station.   End of Anglo-Boer War
1904 The official opening of the Central Electric Station in Dock Road.    
1905 Cape Town was declared the legislative capital of the newly-formed Union of South Africa. The Cape Province retained voting rights for non-Whites. The Cape Town City Hall, in Darling Street, was built with its impressive opulent decorated marble facade which is combined with Italian renaissance features and the English colonial style.    
1913 The construction of a pier at the bottom of Adderley Street was completed. It contained an amphitheatre, restaurant, observation tower, bathing cubicles and a landing stage for sailing and rowing boats. The City of Greater Cape Town was formed by the union of Central Cape Town, Green Point and Sea Point, Woodstock, Maitland, Mowbray, Rondebosch, Claremont and Kalk Bay.    
      1914–1918: World War 1
1927 The first Town Planning Ordinance was passed by the Cape Town City Council. The Greater Cape Town area was extended to include Wynberg.    
1933 Cape Town City Council authorised the use of trolley buses, or trackless trams as they were called.    
1934 The Slums Act of 1934 was passed. This gave municipalities and the government the authority to acquire slum properties. It could have encouraged landlords to improve their buildings but effectively resulted in areas being more easily demarcated for development. District Six presented special problems in this regard.    
1935 The reclamation of 480 acres of land on the foreshore was started. This included the expansion of the harbour and the expansion of the central city by some 270 acres.    
1936 The first of a series of laws was promulgated in National Parliament which diminished the voting rights of non-Whites in the Cape (Representation of Natives Act).    
      1939–1945: World War 2
1948 National Party wins the general election and remains in power until 1994. This year saw the ending of the ambivalence towards residential segregation. The National Party had apartheid (separate racial development) as its central theme.    
1949 The Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act was promulgated. Post Office apartheid also started: Europeans and non-Europeans had to stand in separate queues in post offices and were served at different counters.    
1950 Some of the Acts passed by the Government: The Immorality Act, the Group Areas Act, the Suppression of Communism Act, and the Population Registration Act (which officially divided South Africans into 'White', 'Coloured', 'Asian' or 'Native'). It was compulsory for all Capetonians over 16 to carry ID cards specifying their race.    
1958 An enormous road construction project was started, including Table Bay Boulevard, Settlers Way, Eastern Boulevard, Liesbeeck Parkway and Black River Parkway.    
1962 Robben Island used as a 'maximum security institution' and thousands of black political prisoners were sent there.    
1964 Nelson Mandela was sentenced to imprisonment on Robben Island.    
1966 District Six was declared a "White Group Area". This meant that all buildings except religious ones could be demolished ('slum clearance'). About 150 000 people (mostly Coloureds and Africans) were forced to move to residential areas on the Cape Flats.    
1971 The Nico Malan Theatre, now called Artscape, was completed.    
1972 The early 1970s saw the emergence of various shanty towns - Unibel (1972), Crossroads (1974), KTC (1975), and Modderdam (1975).    
1975 Development of Mitchells Plain started – 40 000 home-ownership dwellings for 250 000 people.    
1977 The Baxter Theatre in Rondebosch was completed.    
1979 The Golden Acre Complex in Strand Street, and the Cape Town City Council's new Civic Centre complex on the Foreshore were completed.    
1985 The State of Emergency declared by government conferred almost limitless powers on the security forces and restricted media coverage. Thousands were detained, some without trial. Coloured schools were temporarily closed.    
1986 The pedestriansation of St George's and Church Streets starts.    
1989 The redevelopment of the historic docklands begins by the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront company, a subsidiary of Transnet.    
1990 President FW de Klerk unbans all political organisations. Certain political prisoners were released, including Nelson Mandela.    
1991 The Group Areas Act was abolished.    
1994 First national and provincial democratic elections.   Nelson Mandela becomes SA's first democratically elected president.
Internet invented.
1995 The removal of statutory discrimination from state schools begins. Cape Town hosted the opening game of the 1995 Rugby World Cup, with SA playing against Australia. SA won the first game and the series.    
1996 First democratic local government elections were held. Greater Cape Town was then split into six municipalities, with a total of 174 wards within an umbrella Metropolitan Council. The NP won 5 of the 6 municipalities.    
1999 The Unicity Commission was established as a temporary political body to manage and ensure a smooth transition from the current seven municipal councils into one structure.   Thabo Mbeki becomes SA president.

City of Cape Town
Candid Cape Town by G G Michaelides, C Struik Publishers 1977
Cape Town in the twentieth century by Vivian Bickford-Smith, Elizabeth van Heyningen and Nigel Worden, David Phillip Publishers (Pty) Ltd. 1999

A Historical record commemorating the Centenary of the City of Cape Town Electricity Undertaking 1895 to 1995, by Dennis Palser