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South Africa Free State location map.svg
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Coordinates: 28°42′5″S26°27′32″E / 28.70139°S 26.45889°E / -28.70139; 26.45889 Coordinates: 28°42′5″S26°27′32″E / 28.70139°S 26.45889°E / -28.70139; 26.45889
Country South Africa
Province Free State
District Lejweleputswa
Municipality Masilonyana
Established1875 [1]
  Total29.9 km2 (11.5 sq mi)
 (2011) [2]
  Density430/km2 (1,100/sq mi)
Racial makeup (2011)
   Black African 87.1%
   Coloured 1.2%
   Indian/Asian 0.3%
   White 11.2%
First languages (2011)
   Sotho 55.3%
   Xhosa 16.6%
   Afrikaans 13.5%
   Tswana 9.1%
Time zone UTC+2 (SAST)
Postal code (street)
PO box
Area code 051
Website Official website

Brandfort is a small agricultural town in the central Free State province of South Africa, about 60 km northeast of Bloemfontein. The town serves the surrounding farms for supplies and amenities. It is well known for once being home to the Anti-Apartheid stalwart and former wife of Nelson Mandela Winnie Mandela during her banishment. The British built a concentration camp here during the Second Boer War to house Boer women and children. Brandfort was also home to former prime-minister Hendrik Verwoerd, an architect of Apartheid, who matriculated there and Cardiff City F.C. midfielder Kagisho Dikgacoi was born in Brandfort. This is where Admiral John Weston designed and built the First Aeroplane in Africa as well as the First RV/caravan in the World. He also designed the Gnome Engines now exhibited in the Bloemfontein Museum.



The town was established in 1866 on the farm Keerom, occupied by Jacobus van Zijl who was a Voortrekker elder. The community was visited by the then Orange Free State President, Johannes Brand, and the settlement was named in his honour shortly afterwards. Brandfort was later proclaimed a town in 1874. [3] It was also the Capital city of the Free State during the Anglo Boer War (1899-1902).


Main sites

Brandfort concentration camp The National Archives UK - CO 1069-215-72.jpg
Brandfort concentration camp
Angel statue in front of Dutch Reformed Church in Brandfort Angel statue Brandfort.jpg
Angel statue in front of Dutch Reformed Church in Brandfort

Concentration camps

Concentration camps, derived from the Spanish word "concentrade", were first used in Cuba in 1896 by General Butcher Weyler. [4] Half a million Cuban civilians were rounded up and incarcerated in fortified villages in which about 100 000 died. In South Africa, the first concentration camps were erected in early 1901 during the South African War (1899-1902), also known as the Second Boer War. [4] Thousands of women and children were removed from their farms and towns to the concentration camps.

Conditions in the concentration camps were poor due to overcrowding and inadequate supplies. Malnutrition and disease spread rapidly leading to the deaths of many civilians in these camps. [5]

Segregation persisted during war time and there was a camp for Whites called Dwyersdorp (named after Captain Dywer who assisted White women and children who had been incarcerated at the camp) and the adjacent one for Blacks was called Nooitgedacht. [6]

The camp cemetery was declared as a National Monument in 1985 and currently holds Provincial Heritage Site status. It contains the remains of 1263 women and children who died. The cemetery was opened on 22 September 1962 by President Charles Robberts Swart. [7]

Banishment house of Winnie Mandela

Winnie Mandela (politician, liberation struggle stalwart and former wife of the late Nelson Mandela) was banished to Brandfort in May 1977. She lived at house number 802 in the Black township in Brandfort. The area had no running water and electricity, and when she moved to her house, there were no floors and ceilings. [8]

In the book, Winnie Mandela: A life, she described Brandfort as:

"A drab and dusty rural hamlet with unimaginative houses, an old-fashioned two-storey hotel, small shops lining the main street and a pervading atmosphere of lethargy and inactivity… The forlorn township had no official name but the black residents had baptised it “Phathakahle” meaning handle with care" [9]

The site has been nominated as a National Heritage Site and plans are underway to develop it into a museum. Yet, since 1994

these plans has only lead to corrupt tenders on the part of the corrupt ANC government. The site has not received any maintenance

or development.

Other sites

Other monuments and heritage sites

Florisbad archaeological and palaeontological site

The Florisbad archaeological and paleontological site lies about 46 km west of Brandfort and the site was declared as a National Monument (now a Provincial Heritage Site) in 1997. The Florisbad Skull, an early hominid from the Middle Stone Age, was found here. [10]

Rear-Admiral John Weston's House MUSEUM. Declared by then President C.R.Swart in the 1960s as a National Monument '

The first aeroplane built in Africa was built in Brandfort on property owned by Rear Admiral John Weston. The house has been turned into a restaurant and tourist attraction with the history of the Rear-Admiral and Brandfort. [11] It has been nominated a National Heritage Site by SAHRA. This is where John Weston lived and designed both the Aeroplane and Gnome engine now exhibited by the Bloemfontein Museum. The engine is a Provincial Heritage memorabilia. He also designed the First RV/motorized caravan in the World. And travelled through the Continent of Africa with his family for 18 months from Cape Agulhas to Palestine. Their journey was interrupted because the children had to attend School in England. He married Lily Roux in 1906. They had 3 children. Anna; Kathleen and Max. He lived an Extraordinary life which came to an abrupt end in 1950 when he was murdered in Bergville.[]

Voortrekker Memorial Wall

In the front of the Dutch Reformed Church, there is a wall of names which honours Voortrekker settlers in the area. [11]

Angel statue

This statue stands prominently in front of the Dutch Reformed Church. It commemorates the Boer women and children (and also farm workers) who died in the Brandfort concentration camps during the South African War. [12]


Due to a dwindling economy, Brandfort is a ghost town compared to what it was in previous decades. Brandfort was a neat town, known for its good schools, many professional inhabitants and businesses, agricultural co-operations, good community health services, social support structures, quality sport and recreational facilities, caravan park, hotel and water reservoir. The poor maintenance of these facilities is evident; the museums and monuments are deteriorating and no plan currently exists to save them from further decay.

The Admiral John Weston House Museum is under new management and the house is undergoing renovations. It is open to the public and entrance is free of charge. School educationals are held on a regular basis.

The majority of the people are financially supported solely by the government. There are only full-time employment opportunities for about 3% of the people.

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  1. "Chronological order of town establishment in South Africa based on Floyd (1960:20-26)" (PDF). pp. xlv–lii.
  2. 1 2 3 4 Sum of the Main Places Majemasweu and Brandfort from Census 2011.
  3. "Brandfort Tourism". Discover Travel Spectrum. Retrieved 4 December 2017.
  4. 1 2 War Museum. Black participation and suffering in the South African War 1899-1902: An untold story. Firefly Publications. p. 81.
  5. Warwick, Peter. Black people and the South African War, 1899-1902. Cambridge University Press. p. 149.
  6. Haig, Theodore Josina. The Kimberley arrangement. New York: Page publishing Inc. p. 53. ISBN   9781682892596.
  7. "Declared sites" (PDF). SAHRIS. Retrieved 5 December 2017.
  8. South African History Online (16 March 2011). "Winnie Mandela is banished to Brandfort". South African History Online. SAHO. Retrieved 4 December 2017.
  9. Du Preez-Bezrob, Anne Marie. Winnie Mandela: A Life. Cape Town: Zebra Press. p. 185. ISBN   1868729265.
  10. "Declared sites". SAHRIS. Retrieved 5 December 2017.
  11. 1 2 "Brandfort Attractions". Free State Tourism. Retrieved 5 December 2017.
  12. "Brandfort". Showme Community websites. Retrieved 5 December 2017.