Atlantis was created in the early 1970's as a “model industrial node”, within the framework of Apartheid spatial Development Policies. These policies were designed to physically separate and divide South Africans along racial lines. Atlantis was developed for people designated as ‘coloured’ under Apartheid law and was situated 45 km North of the Cape Town – far from the City centre, where most of the jobs were in those days.
Before 1973, this Area was characterised by sand dunes and not much else! In order to attract people to this new Town, people were promised housing and jobs. People designated as ‘coloured’ who had been displaced from various Areas of Cape Town during Forced Removals, or who wanted to escape overcrowded conditions in Areas they were living, came to Atlantis in the hope for a better life. A quote from C. Samuels, published in 'Grassroots, October 1980': “Ek het nou ‘n huis gekry in Atlantis en dit is baie ver. Ek wil nie soontoe trek nie want dit is ver van my mense en werk. Wat kan ek maak. Ek moet gaan vir ‘n dak, dis al hoop vir my. Ek wil weet hoekom hul ‘n township so ver van die Kaap gebou het.” Population of Atlantis grew to 30 000 in the 80's and to just over 67 000 in 2011. A major issue for people moving to Atlantis, was its complete isolation from the rest of Cape Town. Atlantis’s success as an industrial node to provide jobs to attract ‘coloured’ people to the Town, depended on huge Government support. The Government invested approximately R1,5 billion in the project. To attract businesses, it offered incentives such as:'low-cost loans for Land purchases and Buildings; a reduction in company taxes; grants for relocation costs, railway discounts and housing for staff'. More than 100 Companies made use of the incentives to relocate to Atlantis. Particularly common were Light Industrial and Manufacturing industries who could easily relocate without substantial investment. The biggest employer, Atlantis Diesel Engine (ADE), was established in 1979 and employed more than 2 300 people. (link is obtainable in Further Reading)