The Cape

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Commonwealth of the Cape
Motto: Spes Bona
(English: Good Hope)
Anthem: "God Save the Queen"
Location of The Cape in Southern Africa
Location of The Cape in Southern Africa
and largest city
Cape Town
Official languages English
Recognised national languages Afrikaans
Ethnic groups (2018) 48.1% Black
29.9% White
21.3% Coloured
0.5% Asian
Demonym Capetian
Government Unitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy
 -  Monarch Elizabeth II
 -  Governor-General Cornelius Walters
 -  Prime Minister Helen Zille
Legislature Parliament
 -  Upper house Senate
 -  Lower house House of Assembly
Independence from the United Kingdom
 -  Union Act of 1909 20 September 1909 
 -  Dominion Created 31 May 1910 
 -  Statute of Westminster Adoption Act 9 October 1942 (with effect from 3 September 1939) 
 -  Cape Act 14 September, 1985 
 -  Total 569,020 km2
219,699 sq mi
 -  2018 estimate 19,878,049
GDP (PPP) 2018 estimate
 -  Total $368.22 Billion
 -  Per capita $18,524
Gini (2018)60.29
very high
Error: Invalid Gini value
HDI (2018)Increase 0.743
Currency Capetian Pound (CPP)
Time zone Capetian Standard Time (TUC+2)
Date format DD/MM/YYYY
Drives on the left
Calling code +267
ISO 3166 code CP
Internet TLD .cp

The Commonwealth of the Cape known simply as The Cape is the southernmost country on the African continent. It is bounded to the south by the Indian Ocean, to the west by the Atlantic Ocean, to the north by Botswana and Namibia and to the north and east by Lesotho and South Africa. It is the southernmost country on the mainland of the Old World and the Eastern Hemisphere. The Cape is the only country in Sub-Saharan Africa where Sub-Saharan Africans are not the majority of the population. 48% identifies as Sub-Saharan African, 29% identifying as White, 21% identifying as coloured, and 0.5% identifying as Asian. While English is the only official language of The Cape, Afrikaans, Tswana, and Xhosa are all protected as national languages.

The Cape has become a model country in Africa, with the highest Human Development Index in continental Sub-Saharan Africa and the third highest GDP Per Capita in continental Sub-Saharan Africa. The country is one of the few in Africa to never experience a coup d'etat and elections have been held for over a century. The Cape has traditionally been more liberal than it's neighboring South Africa, which played a major role in the end of restrictions of blacks in the Cape. During the 1950's and 1960's, the white-dominated government began loosening restrictions on voting rights by lowering the requirements in the Cape Qualified Franchise and mandating required education for all Capetians. In 1990, universal suffrage was enacted after an amendment to the constitution. As a result of the absence of strong racial policies and political turmoil, The Cape has become a prime location for investment in Southern Africa, surpassing the GDP Per Capita of South Africa by nearly $4,000.

The World Bank classifies The Cape as an upper-middle-income economy, and the country is one of the largest banking and industrial centers in Africa. However, around 10% of the population lives on less than $1.25 a day, something that the government has worked hard in recent years to try and reduce. Nevertheless, The Cape identifies as a Middle Power on the international stage.


The name "The Cape" is derived from the country's location at the southern Cape of Africa. Prior to 1910, the official name of the colony was the Colony of the Cape of Good Hope which references the Cape of Good Hope. However, the name was shortened to "The Cape" to prevent confusion between the country and the cape itself. Since 1910, the official name of the country has been "The Commonwealth of The Cape". "The Commonwealth" refers to the country being a British Commonwealth realm, and is one of the few remaining vestiges of British colonialism.

Koloni derived from the Xhosa name for "Cape", is a colloquial name for The Cape. The Commonwealth aspect of the official name of the Cape has raised controversy, with some Pan-Africanist groups seeing it extended British colonialism.


Dutch Cape Colony

The Dutch were the first Europeans to establish a settlement in modern-day Cape in 1652. The Dutch Cape Colony was a commandment and later a governorate of the Dutch East India Company. The colony was founded to be a stopover for Dutch ships travelling to Asia, however quickly became a settler colony, much to the dismay of the Dutch East India Company. The colony proved an ideal retirement place for former employees, and soon slaves were being imported from Mozambique, Madagascar, and Asia to work on farms. A very small amount of French Huguenots came to the Dutch Cape Colony, however most fled to British Carolina (formerly French Carolina). To try and escape the control of the company, some migrants began moving inland, expanding the colony. In order to avoid clashes with the Bantu people in Africa, the Dutch agreed to make the Great Fish River the colonial border.

British Cape Colony

In 1795, the British took over administration of the Cape Colony after the Battle of Muizenberg. The colony was returned under the Peace of Amiens and the colony was given to the Batavian Republic. However, the outbreak of the Napoleonic Wars invalidated the Peace of Amiens and the British took over the colony in 1806. The Cape Colony proved to be a good stopping point for ships heading toward British colonies in India, Illium, New South Wales, Jarraban, and New Duveland. The colony was officially handed over to the British in the Convention of London.

The British began settling the eastern border of the Cape Colony in 1820, near the Port Elizabeth area. Britain also introduced the first rights for Africans in the Cape and in 1833 outlawed slavery throughout the colony. These rapid changes in addition to an influx of British settlers caused the Great Trek where Dutch settlers moved inland and later founded their own republics. British settlers continued to immigrate to the colony en masse. A series of border wars were fought with the Xhosa, however these wars finally ended after the Xhosa partook in a mass destruction of their own crops and cattle. The resulting famine crippled the possibility of any further resistance.

In 1848, British Parliament responded to complaints by Australian’s as well as a plan by Parliamentarian Charles Adderley and made the Cape Colony into a penal colony. The Cape Colony was much closer than Australia, and the British preferred using convicts for labor instead of native Africans. As a result of this, the Cape Colony saw an influx of British and Irish migrants, many of which moved toward the northern and eastern parts of the colony (as the Western Province was exempt from prisoners). This drove Afrikaners who still remained away from their lands and into the Transvaal and Orange Free State. The Cape of Good Hope achieved responsible government in 1872 after a prolonged legal battle, however the colony continued to accept convicts. The convicts helped to build infrastructure in the colony as well as settle the hinterland and thus were valuable to the Cape. The colony sustained economic growth and was politically stable during the 1870’s. The colony was able to annex both Griqualand East and West, the latter of which contained a large amount of Afrikaners who had left the Cape. The founding of diamonds in Kimberley led to the rise of Cecil Rhodes to power in the Cape, and ultimately the First and Second Boer Wars which led to the British conquest of the Orange Free State and Transvaal. In 1885, the Cape Parliament voted to stop the importation of convicts due to widespread popular support against the move. This was partially due further non-convict immigration, which led to a decline in the need for convict labor. At the turn of the century and into the early 1900’s, politics in the Cape Colony focused on an ever-growing divide in the colony between English and Afrikaners. The Afrikaners deeply regretted the English for pushing them off of their lands, and the English did not want to work with the Afrikaners for various reasons.


In 1909, the British Empire sought to unite it’s Southern African possessions into one union. The resulting plan was the Union of South Africa, a union which would combine the Cape Colony, the Natal Colony, the Orange River Colony, and the Transvaal Colony into a unitary state. Those in the Cape Colony immediately drew concerns over the new Union which was made, without the consent of the Cape Parliament and the Cape population in general. Many English speakers in the Cape rejected the idea of working with the Afrikaners, however this was not entirely the primary motive for disliking the plan. The plan also would downgrade the Cape Parliament’s control over its own territory and hand over much of its power to what was assumed to be Pretoria or Bloemfontein at the time. This would jeopardize the Cape’s liberal tradition, especially in the Cape Qualified Franchise, which was unique among the other southern African colonies which wanted to entrench white rule. This alarmed the Cape Parliament and many of the citizens of the Cape, which desired keeping their own rule either under a federation or elevating their current status to a dominion. The Cape protested, saying that it had a right to vote on the Union and if the United Kingdom did not let it vote, it would secede from the newly created Union. Britain feared that Cape secession would revive interests in the former Boer Republics for independence and thus allowed for the Cape Colony to vote on accession to the Union. In February, the referendum was held with 73% against accession and 27% for accession. Therefore, Britain decided to elevate the status of the Cape Colony to dominion on May 31, 1910, the same day as the Union was proclaimed in Natal, Transvaal, and the Orange River Colony.

In 1914, The Cape entered into World War I alongside the United Kingdom. Cape forces worked with South African forces in the relatively quick conquest of German South West Africa. Following the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, the mandate for South West Africa was given to the Cape. The interwar period was a time of peace and prosperity for the Cape. Immigration continued and the economy continued to increase throughout the 1920’s. In 1931, the Statute of Westminster granted the Cape full independence by abolishing the last powers of the British government in the country. The Cape entered into World War II as an ally of the United Kingdom in 1939, with only some pushback from the Afrikaner dominated New Union Party. theDemocratic Party and Cape Party both merged to create the Democratic Alliance in 1941.

Modern History

As a result of the Cape Qualified Franchise, Black government members grew in numbers in the 1960s. The fast-growing economy of the country in the 1960s provided more employment and hard currency for the Cape. Heavy Industry began to show up in cities such as Port Elizabeth, East London, and Cape Town. Beginning in the 1960’s some of the racial laws within the Cape began being repealed by the Cape Parliament, mainly after protests are staged by the Cape African Congress (CAC).

The Democratic Alliance, which remained in power kept immigration open. This happened as South Africa began to restrict immigration, leading to many new immigrants from the British Isles and Eastern Europe immigrating to The Cape. Many new immigrants came from newly independent African nations, and the end of white rule in the Belgian Congo and Kenya began to influence DA members to accept blacks in politics, while some Afrikaner hardliners in the New Union Party tried to push back.

By 1970, The Cape’s white populations lived by first world standards, and a growing number of educated black Africans entered that lifestyle. The Cape African Congress was successful in lobbying the Cape Parliament to remove the last non-voter restrictions by 1972. In the wake of the Sharpeville Massacre in South Africa and the use of violence and terror by the African National Congress shocked many Capetians who did not want to see the same in their country. Parliament lowered some qualifications on the Cape Qualified Franchise, however it continued to remain in place, even for whites. The independence of Angola and Mozambique in 1975 resulted in some 350,000 new arrivals from the Portuguese colonies. The Cape briefly intervened in the Angolan Civil War on the side of UNITA to prevent the communist MPLA from taking power, but this ultimately failed. By the late 1970’s, the United Nations exerted pressure on the Cape to give independence to South West Africa. Although relations were mostly peaceful, a small Ovambo based group, the South West Africa People's Organization (SWAPO) did advocate for independence. Some also advocated for a referendum on the future of the province.

By 1980, blacks were 25% of the voters, a number expected to hit 40% by 2000. Despite this, white immigration continued. While the education and social systems were still very unequal, they were improving rapidly. By 1980, suffrage encompassed virtually the entire Indian and Colored populations. In fact, the Indian population began growing as well, as Indians began leaving Natal and settling in the Eastern Cape to gain political rights. Some South African blacks did the same.

The Democratic Alliance finally lost power to the CAC in 1986, after the longest uninterrupted reign in a modern democratic state with real and fair elections. The Cape continued to be ardently anti-communist, to the level of being a major ally in the Southern Hemisphere for the western powers. The CAC, which always fought for universal suffrage, advocated a amendment to the constitution to allow for universal suffrage. The amendment was passed in 1990 with widespread popularity. In 1989, a referendum was held in South West Africa over the future of the province. Despite the economic and social progress, 50.6% of the population voted for independence, and the Cape granted it independence on March 21, 1990. The 1992 Capetian elections were the first universal suffrage elections. The CAC won a majority, but the DA provided a strong showing - helped by a large number of black candidates and the South African blacks being a lot less uncomfortable with the idea of white members of government. A new wave of white immigration from the former Eastern Bloc in the early 1990’s boosted immigration, and throughout the 2000’s, some South African whites have left South Africa for the Cape, owing to the better run government under the CAC and the Democratic Alliance. The white population tops off at around 5.5 million in 2018 and is still growing.

In the early 2000’s, The Cape became a hub for both the finance and technology industries in Sub-Saharan Africa. Although some African countries have been uneasy with the Cape in the past, due to its majority-minority status, the Cape has found many new allies in Namibia, Botswana, and Zambezi. The country was only moderately hit by the 2008 financial crisis and recovered relatively fast. However, the southwestern part of the Cape currently is dealing with a drought which has threatened to leave Cape Town without water.

Politics and government

Elizabeth II
Queen of the Cape since 1952
Cornelius Walters
Current Governor-General
Helen Zille
Current Prime Minister

The Cape is a parliamentary consitutional monarchy with Elizabeth II at its apex as Queen of the Cape. The queen is represented in the Cape by the Governor-General, whom she appoints on the advice of the Prime Minister. The Governor-General can exercise the Crown's prerogative powers, such as reviewing cases of injustice and making appointments of ministers, ambassadors and other key public officials, and in rare situations, the reserve powers (e.g. the power to dissolve Parliament or refuse the Royal Assent of a bill into law). The powers of the Queen and the Governor-General are limited by constitutional constraints and they cannot normally be exercised without the advice of ministers.

The bicameral Parliament of the Cape holds legislative power and consits of the Senate and House of Assembly. The Senate consists of 190 members, ten members from each of the nineteen provinces. The House of Assembly consists of 400 members and is elected every three years by a system of party-list proportional representation. The party with majority support in the House of Assembly forms the government and its leader becomes Prime Minister. In cases where no party has majority support, the Governor-General has the constitutional power to appoint the Prime Minister and, if necessary, dismiss one that has lost the confidence of Parliament.

In the most recent, 2016 election, the Democratic Alliance (DA) won 56% of the vote and 224 seats, while the main opposition, the Cape African Congress (CAC) won 34% of the vote and thus 136 seats. The United Democratic Party (UDP), a center-left political party that broke away from the CAC in 2011, won 8% of the vote and 32 seats. The Democratic Alliance and Cape African Congress have generally been the largest two parties in the Cape since the mid-1980's.

In 2008, The Cape placed 2nd out of 48 sub-Saharan African countries on the Ibrahim Index of African Governance. The Cape scored well in all categories, especially in Rule of Law, Transparency & Corruption, Participation & Human Rights, and Safety & Security.

Foreign Relations

The Cape is unique among African nations as it is the last commonwealth realm in Africa. As such, the Cape has strong ties to other Commonwealth realms such as Australia, Canada, Jarraban, and New Duveland. The Cape is a founding member of the United Nations, as well as one of the founding members of the African Union. Among African Union members, the Cape has the fifth largest economy, as well as the fifth highest GDP per capita. It is also a founding member of the AU's New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD).

Helen Zille and Former-South African President Jacob Zuma speaking during a state visit in Pretoria

The Cape has played a key role in African conflicts over the past four decades such as in Angola, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Comoros, and Zimbabwe. The Cape is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, as well as the Group of 77. The Cape is also a member of the Alliance of Independent Nations, Southern African Development Community, South Atlantic Peace and Cooperation Zone, Southern African Customs Union, Antarctic Treaty System, World Trade Organization, International Monetary Fund, and the Port Management Association of Eastern and Southern Africa.

The Cape has generally been seen as a western-oriented country, highly relying on its relations with European countries, as well as those with the United States, Carolina, and other Commonwealth realms. During the Cold War the country was staunchly anti-communist which was in part due to many of its immigrants coming from Eastern Europe. After the Cold War, the country developed cordial relations with much of the former Soviet-Bloc. Over the last two decades, the Cape has generally resisted Chinese influence within its borders. However, in 2015, South Africa and China invited The Cape to the 2015 FOCAC summit in Johannesburg which was seen as a major turning point in the Cape's foreign policy. Since 2015, the Cape has generally improved its relations with China while continuing to rely on its western allies. The demographics of the Cape have sometimes put it at odds with other African nations, most notably with Muammar Gaddafi of Libya. However, since universal suffrage was enacted most nations have held the Cape as an example of a model for African democracy.

Administrative divisions

Provinces of the Cape

Each of the nineteen provinces is governed by a unicameral legislature, which is elected every three years by party-list proportional representation. The legislature elects a Premier as head of government, and the Premier appoints an Executive Council as a provincial cabinet. The powers of provincial governments are limited to topics listed in the Constitution; these topics include such fields as health, education, public housing, and transport.

The provinces are in turn divided into district municipalities as well as three metropolitan municipalities in Cape Town, East London, and Port Elizabeth. District municipalities are further divided into local municipalities. The metropolitan municipalities, which govern the largest urban agglomerations, perform the functions of both district and local municipalities.

Above the provincial government level but lower than the national government level, the Cape has three regions, the Northern Cape, Eastern Cape, and Western Cape. These regions group provinces which have similar economies, climates, and demographics. The regions were created by the Cape Regions Act of 1998 in order to bring about more cooperation between similar provinces. Regions have no legislative power and are solely tasked with bringing about further cooperation between provinces within the region. The Premier of each province has the power to appoint two people to the Regional Council with the consent of the provincial parliament. Each regional council meets several times per month at the regional seat, usually the largest city in the region.