Cape Town initially opposed implementing the Group Areas Act passed in 1950 and residential areas in the city remained unsegregated until the first Group Areas were declared in the city in 1957. When Cape Town did start implementing the Group Areas Act, it did so more severely than any other major city; by the mid-1980s it became one of the most segregated cities in South Africa.
Plans to build Khayelitsha were first announced by Dr Piet Koornhof in 1983, then Minister of Co-operation and Development. By 1985 the suburb Site C had 30,000 people. Khayelitsha was one of the apartheid regime’s final attempts to enforce the Group Areas Act and was seen as the solution to two problems: the rapidly growing number of migrants from the Eastern Cape, and overcrowding in other Cape Town townships.
The discrimination and black population control by the apartheid government did not prevent blacks from settling in the outskirts of Cape Town. After the scrapping of pass laws in 1987 many blacks, mainly Xhosas, moved into areas around Cape Town in search of work. By this time many blacks were already illegally settled in townships like Nyanga and Crossroads. During 1983 and 1984 conditions in squatter camps like Crossroads and KTC worsened, exacerbated by official policing policy in which homes were destroyed and the emergence of the Witdoeke, led by “Mayor” Johnson Ngxobongwana. The Witdoeke were actively supported by the apartheid government in its fight against the ANC-aligned UDF who had actively opposed plans for people to be moved to the new township of Khayelitsha. As the black population grew, the apartheid regime sought to solve the “problem” by establishing new black neighbourhoods. Khayelitsha was established in 1985 and large numbers of people were forcefully relocated there, mostly peacefully, but occasionally accompanied with violence.
The Western Cape was a preference area for the local coloured population and a system called influx control was in place preventing Xhosas from travelling from the Transkei without the required permit. After the historic 1994 elections hundreds of thousands moved to urban areas in search of work, education, or both. Many of them erected shacks made of tin, wood and cardboard.