Identification. The term "Cape Coloureds" generally refers to those South Africans of mixed cultural and racial stock whose ancestors include Europeans, Khoi and other indigenous African people, and Asians. The Coloureds were complexly and artificially defined for political convenience by the South African state in the Population Registration Act No. 30 of 1950 (as amended) on the premise that they occupied a middle political estate between Whites and indigenous Blacks, a designation that entrenched still further that structural position and the varying attendant feelings of marginality among individuals. The legal definition distinguished seven subcategories, only one of which was designated the "Cape Coloured group." The remaining six were listed as "Malay," "Griqua," "Chinese" ( sic), "Indian," "other Asiatic," and "other Coloured."
Location. Historically, the ethnonym "Cape Coloureds" alluded specifically to their origin in and around what is now the city of Cape Town and, more generally, in the Cape Colony (Province). Today their descendants are found throughout South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland, and Zimbabwe, and the term "Coloured" is often used indiscriminately for all people of mixed racial origin.
Demography. In 1988 the total Coloured population in South Africa, excluding Asians, was 3,127,000, representing about 8.7 percent of the total population of that country. Roughly 75 percent of the Coloured population live in urban areas. In neighboring Namibia, 42,241 people were classified as Coloureds in 1981. The 25,181 Rehoboth Basters, who physically resemble the Namibian Coloured people, regard themselves as a separate "nation" because of their historical and political position in that country. The various Baster groups in South Africa tend to maintain a similar ethnic aloofness.
Linguistic Affiliation. By and large, Coloured people speak either or both of the official state languages, Afrikaans and English. In 1980, 83.3 percent claimed Afrikaans as their home language, as opposed to the 10.3 percent who spoke English. Only 4.5 percent of all Coloured families reported that they were bilingual. Various dialects of both English and Afrikaans are also spoken, especially in Cape Town. Some families in rural areas speak Khoe or a Bantu language (nearly 2 percent in 1980).