In 1994, after the inauguration of South Africa's first black president, Nelson Mandela, the Cape Province was broken up into three provinces: Western Cape, Northern Cape and Eastern Cape (which encompasses the former Xhosa homelands of Transkei and Ciskei). However, the Western Cape set itself apart early in post-apartheid South African history by being one of the two provinces to have rejected an ANC mandate (the other being KwaZulu-Natal) by electing former Cape Province Law and Order minister Hernus Kriel (NP) as the first premier of the Western Cape. It would be dominated by the National Party, and its successor, until the party's announced 2004 merger with the ANC, which brought ex-premier Ebrahim Rasool to power.
During the first ten years of the Western Cape's history, crime and terrorism surfaced as a major concern, particularly bombings by the controversial PAGAD group.
The Western Cape Provincial Parliament is responsible for creating laws within its responsibilities as set out by the South African Constitution. Some of the issues dealt with cover agriculture, education, environment, health services, housing, language policies, tourism, trade, and welfare. The Legislature is housed in Cape Town and has a total of 42 members; 24 seats are currently held by the ANC, 13 by the DA, 1 by the ID, 2 by the ACDP, and 2 by the UIF.
The Western Cape Provincial Administration had a 2004 budget of R16.4 billion (US$2.8 billion).
The Western Cape is exceptionally topographically diverse. Most of the province falls within the Cape Fold Belt, a range of sandstone folded mountains of Permian to Carboniferous age that range in height from 1000m to 2300m. The valleys between ranges are generally very fertile and contains alluvial loamy to clay soils. The far interior forms part of the Karoo Basin and is generally arid and hilly with a sharp escarpment in the north. Coastal areas range from sandy between capes, to rocky to steep and mountainous in places. The Western Cape is also the southernmost region of the African continent with Cape Agulhas as its southernmost point, only 3800km from the Antarctic coastline.
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 (Afrikaans: Fine Bush). It is extremely rich in species diversity, with more plant species occurring on Table Mountain than the entire United Kingdom. It is characterised by various types of shrubs, thousands of flowering plant species and some small trees.
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 is extremely lush, with temperate rainforest (or Afromontane Forest) covering many areas adjacent to the coast and along the mountain ranges. Typical species are hardwoods of exceptional height, such as Yellowwood, Stinkwood and Ironwood trees.
Thunderstorms are generally rare in the province, except in the Karoo interior, 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 higher lying ground, however frost is relatively rare in coastal areas and many of the heavily cultivated valleys.
The dependency of the Prince Edward Islands are subantarctic islands, which experience year-round cool to cold temperatures with high precipitation and little annual deviation on both accounts.
The Western Cape Province’s total GDP is the third-highest contribution to the country’s total, at 14.6%. The largest industry is the clothing and textile industry, which employs over 170,000 people. The textile industry is presently declining in importance, due to competition with cheaper Eastern producers, such as China. High-tech industries, international call centres, fashion design, advertising and TV production are niche industries rapidly gaining in importance. The province also has a substantially lower unemployment rate than the other provinces; 17.1% of the working population is unemployed.
The province has recently grown a massive tourism industry, with the majority of international tourist arrivals visiting the province, with Cape Town, Garden Route and the Winelands being popular tourist destinations. There were 1,535,903 international arrivals in 2004 with continued growth annually. Domestic tourism is also on the rise, as low-cost air carriers such as Kulula and 1Time making travel more affordable to more South Africans.
Telecommunications in the province is highly sophisticated; however, landline telephone communications still leaves much to be desired (much due to the Telkom telecommunications parastatal's monopoly). All areas have internet access. Mobile cellular communications is world class with reception in all densely populated rural areas, all urban areas and along all major routes (including mountain passes and tunnels). All national banks are represented almost everywhere, including even the smallest of towns.
15.6% of all households are made up of individuals. The average household size is 3.86.
In the province the population is spread out with 27.3% under the age of 15, 19.4% from 15 to 24, 32.9% from 25 to 44, 15.2% from 45 to 64, and 5.2% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 26 years. For every 100 females there are 94.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 91.3 males.
In the province 55.3% of residents speak Afrikaans at home, 19.3% speak English, 0.0% speak Ndebele, 23.7% speak Xhosa, 0.2% speak Zulu, 0.0% speak Northern Sotho, 0.7% speak Sotho, 0.1% speak Tswana, 0.0% speak Swati, 0.0% speak Venda, and 0.0% speak Tsonga. 0.4% of the population speaks a non-official language at home.
5.7% of residents aged 20 and over have received no schooling, 15.2% have had some primary school, 7.9% have completed only primary school, 36.5% have had some high school education, 23.4% have finished only high school, and 11.2% have an education higher than the high school level. Overall, 34.6% of residents have completed high school.
63.1% of housing units have a telephone and/or cell-phone in the dwelling, 34.2% have access to a phone nearby, and 2.7% have access that is not nearby or no access. 86.5% of households have a flush or chemical toilet. 87.8% have refuse removed by the municipality at least once a week and 1.4% have no rubbish disposal. 67.5% have running water inside their dwelling, 85.2% have running water on their property, and 98.3% have access to running water. 78.8% of households use electricity for cooking, 73.4% for heating, and 88.0% for lighting. 79.1% of households have a radio, 74.1% have a television, 18.2% own a computer, 73.5% have a refrigerator, and 41.4% have a cell-phone.
17.1% of the population aged 15-65 is unemployed. Of the unemployed persons, 53.4% are Black, 43.0% are Coloured, 0.4% are Indian/Asian, and 3.2% are White. 23.3% of Black are unemployed, 9.3% of Coloureds, 5.0% of Indians/Asians, and 2.0% of Whites.
The median annual income of working adults aged 15-65 in the Western Cape is R 18,703 (US$2,811). Males have a median annual income of R 21,048 (US$3,164) versus R 17,035 (US$2,560) for females. The median annual income by race is R 12,213 (US$1,836) for Blacks, R 16,354 (US$2,458) for Coloureds, R 42,803 (US$6,434) for Indians/Asian), and R 64,968 (US$9,765) for Whites. The annual income distribution is: