The racially segregated suburb of Ndabeni was established in about May 1901 near Maitland,North of Pinelands and some 8 kilometres East of the city centre. . It owes its origins to the outbreak of Bubonic plague in Cape Town on 7 February 1901 when the civil authorities located a field hospital and an isolation camp on a site adjoining the military camp at Uitvlugt. A contact camp was established alongside it in prefabricated buildings purchased from the military. Within a short time this had grown into a full community and sometime in 1902 its name was changed to Ndabeni, a Xhosa word meaning; "place of debate" It was also the nickname given by indigenous people to Sir Walter Stanford, who was prominent in the recognition of indigenous rights in the Cape, and who championed the establishment of a universal franchise at the National Convention in 1909.
This outbreak was not unique to Cape Town, and over the next two years the disease affected the populations of most major southern African towns and cities. Its presence was linked directly to the importation by the British military of Argentinean horses to the Cape during the course of the South African War. Unfortunately their fodder was not properly screened for vermin, and consequently plague-bearing rats were allowed to land at Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and East London. Although the disease was quickly contained, its effects were of a more permanent nature, and the origins of the segregated or "apartheid" city can be traced back to this outbreak.