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The Free State


 

  FREE STATE 

 
   
The Free State ,Afrikaans: Vrystaat, Sotho: Foreistata; before 1995, the Orange Free State is a province of South Africa. Its capital is Bloemfontein, which is also South Africa's judicial capital. Its historical origins lie in the Orange Free State Boer republic and later Orange Free State Province. The current borders of the province date from 1994 when the Bantustans were abolished and included into the provinces of South Africa. It is also the only one of the former provinces of South Africa not to undergo border changes, excluding the incorporation of Bantustans.
 

The Free State is situated on flat boundless plains in the heart of South Africa. The rich soil and pleasant climate allow a thriving agricultural industry. With more than 30,000 farms, which produce over 70% of the country's grain, it is known locally as South Africa's breadbasket. The province is high-lying, with almost all land being 1,000 metres above sea level. The Drakensberg and Maluti Mountains foothills raise the terrain to over 2,000 m in the east.

The Free State lies in the heart of the Karoo Sequence of rocks, containing shales, mudstones, sandstones and the Drakensberg Basalt forming the youngest capping rocks. Mineral deposits are plentiful, with gold and diamonds being of particular importance, mostly found in the north and west of the province.

 

The grassy plains in the south of the reserve provides ideal conditions for large herds of plain game such as black wildebeest and springbok. The ridges, koppies and plains typical of the northern section are home to kudu, red hartebeest, white rhinoceros and buffalo. The African wildcat, black wildebeest, zebra, eland, white rhinoceros and wild dog can be seen at the Soetdoring Nature Reserve near Bloemfontein.

 

The Free State experiences a continental climate, characterised by warm to hot summers and cool to cold winters. Areas in the east experience frequent snowfalls, especially on the higher ranges, whilst the west can be extremely hot in summer. Almost all precipitation falls in the summer months as brief afternoon thunderstorms, with aridity increasing towards the west. Areas in the east around Harrismith, Bethlehem and Ficksburg are well watered. The capital, Bloemfontein, experiences hot, moist summers and cold, dry winters frequented by severe frost.

  • Bloemfontein averages: January maximum: 31 °C (min: 15 °C), July maximum: 17 °C (min: -2 °C), annual precipitation: 559 mm
  • Bethlehem averages: 27 °C (min: 13 °C), July maximum: 16 °C (min: -2 °C), annual precipitation: 680 mm
  Agriculture

Agriculture dominates the Free State landscape, with cultivated land covering 32 000 square kilometres, and natural veld and grazing a further 87 000 square kilometres of the province. It is also South Africa's leader in the production of biofuels, or fuel from agricultural crops, with a number of ethanol plants under construction in the grain-producing western region.

Field crops yield almost two-thirds of the gross agricultural income of the province. Animal products contribute a further 30%, with the balance generated by horticulture. Ninety percent of the country's cherry crop is produced in the Ficksburg district, which is also home to the country's two largest asparagus canning factories. Soya, sorghum, sunflowers and wheat are cultivated in the eastern Free State, where farmers specialise in seed production. About 40% of the country's potato yield comes from the province's high-lying areas.

The main vegetable crop is asparagus, both white and green varieties. Although horticulture is expanding and becoming increasingly export-orientated, most produce leaves the province unprocessed.The Free State's advantage in floriculture is the opposing seasons of the southern and northern hemispheres. The province exports about 1.2 million tons of cut flowers a year.

  Mining

The Free State is also rich in mineral wealth, gold representing 20% of the worlds total gold production. Mining is the province's major employer. The province has 12 gold mines, producing 30% of South Africa's output and making it the fifth-largest producer of gold in the world. The Harmony Gold Refinery and Rand Refinery are the only two gold refineries in South Africa.Gold mines in the Free State also supply a substantial portion of the total silver produced in the country, while considerable concentrations of uranium occurring in the gold-bearing conglomerates of the goldfields are extracted as a byproduct.

Bituminous coal is also mined, and converted to petrochemicals at Sasolburg. The Free State also produces high-quality diamonds from its kimberlite pipes and fissures, and the country's largest deposit of bentonite is found in the Koppies district.

 

Since 1989, the Free State economy has moved from dependence on primary sectors such as mining and agriculture to an economy increasingly oriented towards manufacturing and export. Some 14% of the province's manufacturing is classified as being in high-technology industries  the highest of all provincial economies. The northern Free State's chemicals sector is one of the most important in the southern hemisphere. Petrochemicals company Sasol, based in the town of Sasolburg, is a world leader in the production of fuels, waxes, chemicals and low-cost feedstock from coal.

 In the northeastern Free State, nestled in the rolling foothills of the Maluti mountains, the Golden Gate Highlands National Park is the province's prime tourist attraction. The park gets its name from the brilliant shades of gold cast by the sun on the spectacular sandstone cliffs, especially the imposing Brandwag or Sentinel Rock, which keeps vigil over the park.

  Brandwag (The Sentinel)

The sandstone of this region has been used for the lovely dressed-stone buildings found on the Eastern Highlands, while decoratively painted Sotho houses dot the grasslands. Some of South Africa's most valued San (Bushman) rock art is found in the Free State, particularly in the regions around Clarens, Bethlehem, Ficksburg, Ladybrand and Wepener.

 
Sesotho is the dominant home language in most of the province. isiZulu is the major language in the far eastern municipality of Phumelela. Setswana is the main language in Tokologo in the northwest, and in and around the area of Thaba Nchu. It is the only province in the country with a Sesotho majority. Afrikaans is widely spoken throughout the province, as a first language for the majority of whites and coloureds and as a second or third language by Sesotho, Setswana and isiZulu speakers.

Although the numbers of first language English speakers are relatively low, it is becoming increasingly important as the language of business and government. This is further evidenced by the shift of tertiary institutions such as the University of the Free State from Afrikaans to a dual English/Afrikaans medium of instruction.
 

Despite now making up only 10% of the province's ethnic make-up, the white population of the Free State is an influential one. The vast majority of white people in the Free State are Afrikaans-speaking. In 1880 the white population made up 45.7% of the total population. In 1904 this had fallen to 36.8%.Of the 142,679 people in 1904, only 60% were born in the province. Of the 2726 European immigrants born in non-British states, 1025 came from Russian Poland. In 1904 whites made up a majority in most settlements, namely Ficksburg (52.3%), Wepener (60.2%) Ladybrand (60.0%) and Kroonstad (51.6%), and made up a substantial minority in Bloemfontein (45.7%) and Winburg (36.3%).

 

Though historically a predominantly Afrikaner settlement, Bloemfontein was officially founded in 1846 as a fort by British army major Henry Douglas Warden as a British outpost in the Transoranje region, at that stage occupied by various groups of peoples including Cape Colony Trek Boers, Griqua and Basotho. Although modern day Bloemfontein has a reputation for its flowers in an otherwise arid region, the origin of the city's name is unclear. Popular legends include an ox named "Bloem" owned by one of the pioneer farmers that was taken by a lion near a fountain on his property, while another story names Jan Blom (1775–1858), a Korana KhoiKhoi leader who inhabited the area. Bloemfontein literally means fountain of flowers or flower spring in Dutch. With colonial policy shifts, the region changed into the Orange River Sovereignty (1848–1854) and eventually the Orange Free State Republic (1854–1902). From 1902–1910 it served as the capital of the Orange River Colony and since that time as the provincial capital of the Free State. In 1910 it became the Judicial capital of the Union of South Africa.

 

Bethlehem is a town in the eastern Free State province of South Africa that is situated on the Liebenbergs river (also called Liebenbergs Vlei) along a fertile valley just south of the Rooiberg Mountains on the N5 road.It is a wheat growing area and named after the biblical Bethlehem (from "Beit Lechem", Hebrew for "house of bread").The town lies at an altitude of 1,700 metres (5,600 ft) and this contributes to its cool climate with frosty winters and mild summers. The average annual temperature is around 24 °C (75 °F)

Bethlehem is situated approximately 240 kilometres (150 mi) north-east of Bloemfontein, 140 kilometres (87 mi) east of Kroonstad and 90 kilometres (56 mi) west of Harrismith. The town is strategically situated in the heart of the picturesque north-eastern Free State and originally developed as a service centre.[4] Bethlehem is the seat of the Dihlabeng Local Municipality (this municipality is situated within the boundaries of the Thabo Mofutsanyana District Municipality in the Eastern Free State.The township associated with Bethlehem is called Bohlokong ,Sesotho meaning "place of pain".

 

The Orange Free State (Dutch: Oranje-Vrijstaat Afrikaans: Oranje-Vrystaat) was an independent Boer republic in southern Africa during the second half of the 19th century, and later a British colony and a province of the Union of South Africa. It is the historical precursor to the present-day Free State province. Extending between the Orange and Vaal rivers, its borders were determined by the United Kingdom in 1848 when the region was proclaimed as the Orange River Sovereignty, with a seat of a British Resident in Bloemfontein.In the northern part of the territory a Voortrekker Republic was established at Winburg in 1837. This state merged with the Republic of Potchefstroom which later formed part of the South African Republic Transvaal.

Following the granting of independence to the Transvaal Republic, the British recognized the independence of the Orange River Sovereignty on 17 February 1854 and the country officially became independent as the Orange Free State on 23 February 1854, with the signing of the Orange River Convention. The new republic incorporated both the Orange River Sovereignty and the traditions of the Winburg-Potchefstroom Republic. The U.S.A. and the Orange Free State mutually recognized each other in 1871




 
Free State Attractions



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