The Western Cape (Afrikaans: Wes-Kaap, Xhosa: Ntshona Koloni) is a province of South Africa, situated in the south-western part of the country. It is the fourth largest of the nine provinces in terms of both area and population, with an area of 129,449 square kilometres (49,981 sq mi) and 6.2 million inhabitants. About two-thirds of these inhabitants live in the metropolitan area of Cape Town, which is also the provincial capital. The Western Cape was created in 1994 from part of the former Cape Province.
The Western Cape Province is roughly L-shaped, extending north and east from the Cape of Good Hope, in the southwestern corner of South Africa. It stretches about 400 kilometres (250 mi) northwards along the Atlantic coast and about 500 kilometres (300 mi) eastwards along the South African south coast (Southern Indian Ocean). It is bordered on the north by the Northern Cape and on the east by the Eastern Cape. The total land area of the province is 129,462 square kilometres (49,986 sq mi), :9 about 10.6% of the country’s total. It is roughly the size of England or the State of Louisiana. Its capital city and largest city is Cape Town, and some other major cities include Stellenbosch, Worcester, Paarl, and George. The Garden Route and the Overberg are popular coastal tourism areas.
The Western Cape is the southernmost region of the African continent with Cape Agulhas as its southernmost point, only 3800 km from the Antarctic coastline. The coastline varies from sandy between capes, to rocky to steep and mountainous in places. The only natural harbour is Saldanha Bay on the west coast, about 140 km north of Cape Town. However a lack of fresh water in the region meant that it has only recently been used as a harbour. The province’s principle harbour was built in Table Bay, which in its natural state was fully exposed to the northwesterly storms that bring rain to the province in winter, as well as the almost uninterrupted dry southeasterly winds in summer. But fresh water coming off Table Mountain and Devil’s Peak allowed the early European settlers to build Cape Town on the shores of this less than satisfactory anchorage.
The province is topographically exceptionally diverse. Most of the province falls within the Cape Fold Belt, a set of nearly parallel ranges of sandstone folded mountains of Cambrian-Ordovician age (the age of the rocks is from 510 to about 330 million years ago; their folding into mountains occurred about 350 to about 270 million years ago). The height of the mountain peaks in the different ranges vary from 1000m to 2300m. The valleys between ranges are generally very fertile as they contain the weathered loamy soils of the Bokkeveld mudstones The far interior forms part of the Karoo. This region of the Province is generally arid and hilly with a prominent escarpment that runs close to the Province’s most inland boundary.
The Escarpment marks the southwestern edge of South Africa’s central plateau It runs parallel to the entire South African coastline except in the very far northeast, where it is interrupted by the Limpopo River valley, and the far northwest, where it is interrupted by the Orange River valley. The 1000 km-long northeastern stretch of the escarpment is called the Drakensberg, which is geographically and geologically quite distinct from the Cape Fold Mountains, which originated much earlier and totally independently of the origin of the escarpment
The principal rivers of the province are the Berg and Olifants which drain into the Atlantic Ocean, and the Breede and Gourits which drain into the Indian Ocean.
The vegetation is also extremely diverse, with one of the world’s seven floral kingdoms almost exclusively endemic to the province, namely the Cape Floral Kingdom, most of which is covered by Fynbos (from the Afrikaans meaning “Fine Bush” (Dutch: Fijnbosch), though precisely how it came to be referred to as such, is uncertain.). These evergreen heathlands are extremely rich in species diversity, with at least as many plant species occurring on Table Mountain as in the entire United Kingdom. It is characterised by various types of shrubs, thousands of flowering plant species and some grasses. With the exception of the Silver tree, Leucadendron argenteum, which only grows on the granite and clay soils of the Cape Peninsula, open fynbos is generally treeless except in the wetter mountain ravines where patches of Afromontane forest persist.
The arid interior is dominated by Karoo drought-resistant shrubbery. The West Coast and Little Karoo are semi-arid regions and are typified by many species of succulents and drought-resistant shrubs and acacia trees. The Garden Route on the south coast (between the Outeniqua Mountains and the Southern Indian Ocean) is extremely lush, with temperate rainforest (or Afromontane Forest) covering many areas adjacent to the coast, in the deep river valleys and along the southern slopes of the Outeniqua mountain range. Typical species are hardwoods of exceptional height, such as Yellowwood, Stinkwood and Ironwood trees.
The Western Cape is also climatologically diverse, with many distinct micro- and macroclimates created by the varied topography and the influence of the surrounding ocean currents. These are the warm Agulhas Current which flows southwards along South Africa’s east coast, and the cold Benguela Current which is an upwelling current from the depths of the South Atlantic Ocean along South Africa’s west coast. Thus climatic statistics can vary greatly over short distances. Most of the province is considered to have a Mediterranean climate with cool, wet winters and warm, dry summers. Both the Great Karoo and Little Karoo, in the interior, have an arid to semi-arid climate with cold, frosty winters and hot summers with occasional thunderstorms. The Garden Route and the Overberg on the south coast have a maritime climate with cool, moist winters and mild, moist summers. Mossel Bay in the Garden Route is considered to have the second mildest climate worldwide after Hawaii.
Thunderstorms are generally rare in the province (except in the Karoo) with most precipitation being of a frontal or orographic nature. Extremes of heat and cold are common inland, but rare near the coast. Snow is a common winter occurrence on the Western Cape Mountains occasionally reaching down into the more inland valleys. Otherwise, frost is relatively rare in coastal areas and many of the heavily cultivated valleys.
Cape Town International Airport averages: January maximum: 26 °C (min: 16 °C), July maximum: 18 °C (min: 7 °C), annual rainfall: 515mm
Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, Cape Town annual rainfall: 1395mm
George averages: January maximum: 25 °C (min: 15 °C), July maximum: 19 °C (min: 7 °C), annual rainfall: 715mm
Laingsburg, on the N1 highway in the Great Karoo (coordinates: Lat: S33.20°, Long: E20.85°) annual rainfall: 150 mm, summer daytime temperatures exceeding 30 °C.
In 1994, at the introduction of the Interim Constitution and the first non-racial election, South Africa’s original provinces and bantustans were abolished and nine new provinces were established. The former Cape Province was divided into the Western Cape, Northern Cape, Eastern Cape and part of North West.
In the 1994 election the Western Cape was one of two provinces that did not elect an African National Congress (ANC) provincial government (the other being KwaZulu-Natal). The National Party (NP) won 53% of the votes and 23 seats in the 42-seat provincial legislature, and Hernus Kriel, a former Minister of Law and Order, was elected Premier. He resigned in 1998 and was replaced by Gerald Morkel.
The 1999 election marked the beginning of a period of great turbulence in Western Cape politics. No party achieved an absolute majority in the provincial parliament, as the ANC won 18 seats while the New National Party (NNP), successor to the NP, won 17. The NNP went into coalition with the Democratic Party (DP), which won 5 seats, to form a government, and Morkel remained Premier. In 2000 the DP and the NNP formalised their coalition by forming the Democratic Alliance (DA).
In 2001, however, the NNP broke with the DA over the removal of Peter Marais from office as Mayor of Cape Town by DA leader Tony Leon. The NNP instead went into coalition with the ANC; Gerald Morkel, who was opposed to the split, resigned as Premier and was replaced by Peter Marais. In 2002 Marais resigned as Premier due to a sexual harassment scandal, and was replaced by NNP leader Marthinus van Schalkwyk. During the 2003 floor-crossing period four members of the provincial parliament crossed to the ANC, giving it an absolute majority of 22 seats in the 42-seat house. However, the ANC remained in coalition with the NNP and van Schalkwyk remained as Premier.
In the 2004 election there was again no absolute winner in the provincial parliament; this time the ANC won 19 seats, the DA won 12, and the NNP won 5. The ANC-NNP coalition continued in power, but van Schalkwyk took up a ministerial post in the national cabinet and was replaced as Premier by the ANC’s Ebrahim Rasool. The NNP was finally dissolved after the 2005 floor-crossing period and its members joined the ANC, again giving that party an absolute majority of 24 seats. In the 2007 floor-crossing period the ANC gained a further three members of the provincial parliament. In 2008 Rasool resigned as Premier due to internal party politics, and was replaced by Lynne Brown.
The 2009 election marked a significant change in Western Cape politics, as the Democratic Alliance won 51% of the votes and an absolute majority of 22 seats in the provincial parliament, while the ANC won 14 seats with 31% of the vote. The DA leader Helen Zille was elected Premier. In 2010 the Independent Democrats, which had won 3 seats with 5% of the vote, merged with the DA. In the 2014 election the DA won 59% of the votes and an absolute majority of 26 seats in the provincial parliament, while the ANC won 14 seats with 32% of the vote.
The Western Cape’s total GDP for 2008 was R268bn, making the province the joint 2nd largest contributor to the country’s total GDP, at 14%. It also has one of the fastest growing economies in the country, growing at 4% in 2008 and is expected to grow by 3.2% in 2011. At 20% the province has a substantially lower unemployment rate than the national average standing at 23% in 2009. The province’s Gini coefficient of 0.63 is lower than South Africa’s Gini coefficient of 0.7 making it more equal then the rest of the country whilst still being extremely high and unequal by international standards. The Western Cape’s Human Development Index is the highest in South Africa at 0.7708 compared to the South African average of 0.6675 in 2003.
The biggest sector in the Western Cape’s economy is the financial, business services and real estate sectors contributing approximately R77 billion in 2008. Manufacturing was the second largest contributor valued at R43.7 billion in 2008 with the agricultural sector being the fastest growing at 10.6% in the same year. High-tech industries, international call centres, fashion design, advertising and TV production are niche industries rapidly gaining in importance. The city of Cape Town is ranked as the most entrepreneurial city in South Africa with Early-Stage Entrepreneurial Activity being 190% greater than South Africa’s national average.
The Western Cape has an excellent network of highways comparable with any first-world country. The primary highways are the N1 (from Cape Town to Three Sisters, continuing outside the province towards Bloemfontein and Johannesburg), N2 (from Cape Town to Bloukrans River, towards Port Elizabeth), N7 (from Cape Town to Bitterfontein, continuing towards Springbok and Namibia) and N12 (from George to Three Sisters, continuing towards Kimberley and Johannesburg). Other routes are the “R” roads which connect the smaller towns. All major roads are tarred with major rural gravel roads well maintained. Limited access motorways are limited to the Cape Metropolitan Area, Winelands and Garden Route, however due to the low population density of the remainder of the province, the highways remain efficient and high-speed, except during peak holiday travel seasons, when travel can be slow-going in places due to heavy traffic
Telecommunications in the province are highly sophisticated. Landline telephones are available extensively, and the majority of large urban nodes have access to ADSL and other high-speed internet services Mobile cellular networks are world-class, with reception extending from cities to highways and many remote rural areas. Mobile networks also play an important role in the internet space due to their speed and widespread availability. Major cities and towns have access to mobile internet speeds in excess of 21 Mbit/s (HSDPA+). In areas where HSDPA+ is not available, networks make provisions for HSDPA, 3G, EDGE or finally GPRS if demand does not warrant higher speed
The 2011 Census recorded the population of the Western Cape as 5,822,734 people living in 1,634,000 households. As the province covers an area of 129,462 square kilometres (49,986 sq mi), the population density was 45.0 inhabitants per square kilometre (117/sq mi) and the household density 12.6 per square kilometre (33/sq mi).
49% of the people of the Western Cape described themselves as “Coloured”, while 33% described themselves as “Black African”, 17% as “White”, and 1% as “Indian or Asian”. Afrikaans is the plurality language, spoken as the first language of 50% of the province’s population. IsiXhosa is the first language of 25% of the population, while English is the first language of 20%.
Roughly 16% (894,289 people) of the Western Cape’s population in 2011 were born in the Eastern Cape, 3% (167,524) in Gauteng and 1% (61,945) in KwaZulu-Natal. People born outside of South Africa amounted to 4% of the province’s population or 260,952 people.
The age distribution of the province was as follows: 25.1% were under the age of 15, 18.3% from 15 to 24, 32.7% from 25 to 44, 18.0% from 45 to 64, and 5.9% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 28 years.:20 For every 100 women there are 96 men.
2.7% of residents aged 20 and over have received no schooling, 10.7% have had only some primary, 5.6% have completed primary school but gone no further, 38% have had some secondary education without finishing Grade 12, 28% have finished Grade 12 but gone no further, and 14% have higher education beyond the secondary level. Overall, 43% of residents have completed high school.
90% of households in the province have a flush toilet and 90% have refuse removed by the local council at least once a week. 75% of households have piped tap water inside the dwelling, while a further 13% have piped water on their property; 11% receive piped water at a community tap, while 1% have no access to piped water. One in seven people live in an informal dwelling.
86.9% of households use electricity for cooking, and 93% use it for lighting. 93 89% of households have a cellphone and 31% have a landline telephone, while 86% own a television, 81% own a refrigerator, and 34% own a computer. 44% of households have access to the Internet.
The average annual household income was R143,460, the second-highest in the country after Gauteng. As of September 2012, 69% of the population aged 15–64 are economically active, and of these 25% are unemployed. Overall, 52% of the working-age population are employed. Around 2 million people in the Western Cape labour market (those aged 16 to 64) are employed, 1.3 million are not economically active, 552,733 are unemployed with an additional 122,753 who are discouraged work seekers who want to work but have given up looking for it.
According to research conducted by Plus94, the Western Cape is the least racist province in South Africa.