Free State


Free State is one of nine provinces in South Africa. It was formed after the first free elections in 1994 from the Orange Free State, although its name was not changed to Free State until June 1995.
Established as a free state by Voortrekker settlers after the Great Trek from the British-dominated Cape Province, the British colonial government recognised its independence in 1854 with the signing of the Orange River Convention. Although the Orange Free State developed into a politically and economically successful republic, it experienced chronic conflict with the British until it was finally annexed as the Orange River Colony in 1900 (Anglo-Boer War). The Orange Free State joined the Union of South Africa in 1910.
Situated in the heart of South Africa, the Free State is the third largest province with an area of 129,480km². It has the country’s second-smallest population of 2.7 million, made up of 88% Black, 9% White and 3% Coloured.
The first language spoken by most is Sesotho (62%), followed by Afrikaans (14% and isiXhosa (10%).
The major cities and towns in the Free State are Bethlehem, Bloemfontein, Harrismith, Kroonstad, Ladybrand and Welkom. Bloemfontein serves as the nation’s judicial capital, as well as the capital of the Free State province.
Bloemfontein’s Sesotho name is Mangaung, meaning ‘the place where cheetahs dwell.’ It gives its name to the annual Mangaung African Cultural Festival (MCUFE pronounced mac-oo-fay).
Situated on flat boundless plains of central South Africa, the Free State it is known as the ‘bread basket’ of South Africa – producing over 70% of the country’s grain.
Bloemfontein’s high elevation on the southern edge of the highveld (1,400m above sea level) and bordering the semi-arid Karoo, means that it experiences hot summer days (December to February), with a maximum of 31ºC and afternoon thunderstorms.
Lekker Links
Free State provincial government
Free State Department of Tourism
Tourism Grading Council Provinces; Cities & Towns.
Bethlehem, Bloemfontein, Harrismith, Kroonstad, Ladybrand, Welkom
Golden Gate Highlands National Park; Caledon River bushman rock paintings; Hoekfontein bushman rock paintings; Qwa Qwa bushman rock paintings; Schaaplaats bushman rock paintings.
South Africa’s Climate
The winters (June to August) are cold but dry, often with frosts at night. Snow is rare except in the surrounding hills.
On the southern border of the Free State lies the Xhariep District, a region of vast savannas fed by the Garib (great river), as the San people called it. The Gariep Dam is one of the biggest dams in the southern hemisphere.
Bloemfontein (flower fountain), which is known as the City of Roses, is the business and cultural hub of the Free State and expresses the diverse cultures the province is renowned for.
In the former Goldfields, the region’s attractions are centred around gold mining and agriculture. Here you can undertake a tour of some of the deepest mines in the world.
The Voortrekkers are in evidence all over the region, the most impressive being the Voortrekker Monument in Winburg.
In the northern Free State you can challenge the white water of the Vaal River in a canoe, or sail at leisure through the fertile, willow-lined valley. The 300 km² Vaal Dam creates the yachting Mecca of the province, known locally as the ‘highveld’s inland sea’.
The eastern part of the Free State boasts a plethora of scenic beauty, with the Drakensberg and Maluti Mountains as backdrop.
When the baSotho inhabitants of this part of the province and the neighbouring Kingdom of Lesotho, first came into contact with the White man in the 19th century, the baSotho Wars broke out.
Phuthaditjhaba, where the ‘meeting of the nations’ took place, is flanked by the Golden Gate Highlands National Park, a major tourist attraction all the year round.


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