Responsible Government - Cape Colony

Cape Colony

The Cape Colony, in Southern Africa, was under responsible self-government from 1872 until 1910 when it became the Cape Province of the new Union of South Africa.

Under its previous system of representative government, the Ministers of the government of the Cape Colony reported to the colonial Governor of Cape Colony, and not to the locally-elected Parliament. This changed in 1872 when the local politician John Molteno - with the backing of Governor Henry Barkly - instituted responsible government, making the Ministers directly responsible to the Cape Parliament, and becoming the Cape's first Prime Minister.

The ensuing period saw the Cape's economic recovery as well as a growth in exports and an expansion of the colony's frontiers. Despite political complications that arose from time to time (such as an ill-fated scheme by the British Colonial Office to enforce a confederation in Southern Africa in 1878, and tensions with the Afrikaner-dominated Government of Transvaal over trade and railroad construction), economic and social progress in the Cape Colony continued at a steady pace until the outbreak of the Anglo-Boer Wars in 1899.

An important point to be made about the Cape Colony under responsible government was that it was the only state in southern Africa (and one of very few in the world at the time) to have a non-racial system of voting. Later however - following the Act of Union of 1910 to form the Union of South Africa - this multi-racial universal suffrage was steadily eroded, and eventually abolished by the Apartheid government in 1948.

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