Cape Town has a long history of the struggle against racial discrimination and social injustice. Some of the earlier struggles against injustice manifested themselves as armed conflicts, firstly against Portuguese sailors and later Dutch settlers. Various groups of people such as the Khoikhoi, San, slaves and African people further inland fought to extricate themselves from clutches of encroaching colonial domination. What precipitated these early struggles particularly of the Khoikhoi were issues such as the loss of land for grazing pastures and livestock to colonists.

Slaves brought in by the Dutch East India Company (VOC) to the Cape also fought directly and indirectly to improve their material conditions. The emergence of the early elite of the oppressed groups of people precipitated the formation of unions, political organizations and protests against increasing racial segregation in Cape Town and later against apartheid. Thus, Cape Town has and continues to occupy centre stage in shaping the history of South African society.

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