Free State (province)

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Free State

Freistata(in Sotho)
Vrystaat(in Afrikaans)
iFreyistata(in Xhosa)
Foreistata(in Tswana)
iFuleyisitata(in Zulu)
Coat of arms of the Free State.svg
Coat of arms
Katleho ka kopano
(Success through unity)
Free State in South Africa.svg
Location of the Free State in South Africa
Coordinates: 28°S27°E / 28°S 27°E / -28; 27 Coordinates: 28°S27°E / 28°S 27°E / -28; 27
Country South Africa
Orange Free State 17 February 1854
OFS Province31 May 1910
Free State27 April 1994
Capital Bloemfontein
  Type Parliamentary system
   Premier Sisi Ntombela (ANC)
  Legislature Free State Provincial Legislature
[1] :9
  Total129,825 km2 (50,126 sq mi)
Area rank 3rd in South Africa
Highest elevation
3,291 m (10,797 ft)
 (2011) [1] :18 [3]
  Rank 8th in South Africa
  Density21/km2 (55/sq mi)
  Density rank 8th in South Africa
Population groups
[1] :21
   Black 88.7%
   White 8.9%
   Coloured 1.8%
   Indian or Asian 0.6%
[1] :25
   Sotho 64.2%
   Afrikaans 12.7%
   Xhosa 7.5%
   Tswana 5.2%
   Zulu 4.4%
   English 2.9%
Time zone UTC+2 (SAST)
ISO 3166 code ZA-FS
HDI (2018)0.705 [4]
high · 3rd

The Free State (Sotho : Freistata; Afrikaans : Vrystaat; Xhosa : iFreyistata; Tswana : Foreistata; Zulu : iFuleyisitata; 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 Boer republic called the Orange Free State and later Orange Free State Province.



The current borders of the province date from 1994 when the Bantustans were abolished and reincorporated into South Africa. It is also the only one of the four original provinces of South Africa not to undergo border changes, apart from the reincorporation of Bantustans, and has had these borders since before the outbreak of the Boer War.

Law and government

The provincial government consists of a premier, an executive council of ten ministers, and a legislature. The provincial assembly and premier are elected for five-year terms, or until the next national election. Political parties are awarded assembly seats based on the percentage of votes each party receives in the province during the national elections. The assembly elects a premier, who then appoints the members of the executive council.

The provincial legislature meets at the Vierde Raadsaal in Bloemfontein. The premier of Free State is Sisi Ntombela. She has been serving since her appointment in March 2018. [5]


Cornelia in the Riemland region Cornelia, suidaansig, a.jpg
Cornelia in the Riemland region

The Free State is situated on a succession of flat grassy plains sprinkled with pastureland, resting on a general elevation of 3,800 feet only broken by the occasional hill or kopje. The rich soil and pleasant climate allow for 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.

Fauna and flora

The flats 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, southern white rhinoceros and buffalo. The Southern African wildcat, black wildebeest, zebra, eland, white rhinoceros and wild dog can be seen at the Soetdoring Nature Reserve near Bloemfontein. The South African cheetahs has been reintroduced in the Free State for the first time in June 2013 after a hundred years of regional extinction, at Laohu Valley Reserve near Philippolis. [6] Following the reintroduction of an adult female South African cheetah in early 2016, three wild cheetah cubs has been born for the first time in Laohu Valley Reserve in February 2017, making the three new cubs the first cheetahs born in the wild since their disappearance from the Free State province in over a century. [7]


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.


Mafahlaneng township at Tweeling Mafahlaneng-woonbuurt, Tweeling, Vrystaat.jpg
Mafahlaneng township at Tweeling

In the southeast, the Free State borders seven districts of Lesotho:

Domestically, it borders the following provinces:

The Free State borders more districts of Lesotho and more provinces of South Africa than any other province.

It is traversed by the northwesterly line of equal latitude and longitude.


Free State districts and local municipalities Map of the Free State with districts labelled (2011).svg
Free State districts and local municipalities

The Free State Province is divided into one metropolitan municipality and four district municipalities. The district municipalities are in turn divided into 19 local municipalities:

Metropolitan municipalities

District municipalities

Major cities and towns

Parliament Buildings in Bloemfontein with the statue of Christiaan De Wet De Wet Statue Bloemfontein.jpg
Parliament Buildings in Bloemfontein with the statue of Christiaan De Wet

The Free State's major towns include:


The Free State is the only province in South Africa that operates a free 24-hour dedicated rotorwing aeromedical service from a public hospital. They are able to reach far flung areas in only 45 minutes and deliver a high level of care on scene. On 31 October 2018 Free State Emergency Medical Service launched an additional 65 road ambulances to augment the fleet.

Free state has many public and private hospitals. Some of them are:

As of 20 March 2020, seven people had tested positive for Covid-19 in the province.


The province is the granary of South Africa, with agriculture central to its economy, while mining on the rich goldfields reef is its largest employer.


Cattle grazing near Winburg South Africa-Free State-Cattle01.jpg
Cattle grazing near Winburg

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. South Africa is one of the top ten Maize producers in the world (12,365,000 tons as of 2013) whereby all of the crops come from the Free State. The Free State is well known for its Mielielande (corn-fields; the former term is in Afrikaans).

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.[ dubious ]


The Free State is also rich in mineral wealth, gold representing 20% of the world's 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.


On top of Koranaberg On the road in South Africa 18.jpg
On top of Koranaberg

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) Brandwag rock.JPG
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.


Population density in the Free State
<1 /km2
1-3 /km2
3-10 /km2
10-30 /km2
30-100 /km2
100-300 /km2
300-1000 /km2
1000-3000 /km2
>3000 /km2 Free State population density map.svg
Population density in the Free State
  <1 /km²
  1–3 /km²
  3–10 /km²
  10–30 /km²
  30–100 /km²
  100–300 /km²
  300–1000 /km²
  1000–3000 /km²
  >3000 /km²
Dominant home languages in the Free State
No language dominant Free State dominant language map.svg
Dominant home languages in the Free State
  No language dominant

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. The Free State is the only province in South Africa 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.


The majority of the population are black Africans who speak Sotho as a first language. 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%. [8] Of the 142,679 people in 1904, only 60% were born in the province. Of the 2,726 European immigrants born in non-British states, 1,025 came from the Russian Empire, mainly Jews. 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%).



Other educational institutions

Secondary schools





Provincial sport teams

See also

Related Research Articles

Bloemfontein Place in Free State, South Africa

Bloemfontein is the capital city of the province of Free State of South Africa; and, as the judicial capital of the nation, one of South Africa's three national capitals and is the seventh largest city in South Africa. Situated at an elevation of 1,395 m (4,577 ft) above sea level, the city is home to approximately 520,000 residents and forms part of the Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality which has a population of 747,431. It was one of the host cities for the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

QwaQwa Former bantustan in South Africa

QwaQwa was a bantustan ("homeland") in the central eastern part of South Africa. It encompassed a very small region of 655 square kilometres (253 sq mi) in the east of the former South African province of Orange Free State, bordering Lesotho. Its capital was Phuthaditjhaba. It was the designated homeland of more than 180,000 Sesotho-speaking Basotho people.

Phuthaditjhaba Place in Free State, South Africa

Phuthaditjhaba is a town in the Free State province of South Africa. Phuthaditjhaba is a seSotho name that means meeting place of the tribes. It is located on the banks of the Elands River. It also located in a section of Drakensberg mountains . it is bordered by the province of KwaZulu-Natal to the southeast and the independent country of Lesotho to the southwest.

Kroonstad Place in Free State, South Africa

Kroonstad is the third largest city in the Free State and lies two hours drive on the N1 from Gauteng. Maokeng is an area within Kroonstad, and is occasionally used as a synonym of the town itself. It is the second-largest commercial and urban centre in the Northern Free State, and an important railway junction on the main line from Cape Town to Johannesburg. Maokeng is Sesotho and means "place of the thorn trees ".

Bethlehem, Free State Place in Free State, South Africa

Bethlehem is a large town in the eastern Free State province of South Africa that is situated on the Liebenbergs river along a fertile valley just north of the Rooiberg Mountains on the N5 road.It is the fastest growing town in the Free state province, with its target of being the Fourth largest city after Kroonstad in balance.

Harrismith Place in Free State, South Africa

Harrismith is a large town in the Free State province of South Africa. It was named for Sir Harry Smith, a 19th-century British governor and high commissioner of the Cape Colony. It is situated by the Wilge River, alongside the N3 highway, about midway between Johannesburg, about 300 km to the northwest, and Durban to the southeast.

Orange Free State (province) former South African province (1910–1994)

The Province of the Orange Free State, commonly referred to as the Orange Free State, Free State or by its abbreviation OFS, was one of the four provinces of South Africa from 1910 to 1994. After 27 April 1994 it was dissolved following the first non-racial election in South Africa.

Magistrates court (South Africa) court of first instance in South Africa

The magistrates' courts are the lowest level of the court system in South Africa. They are the courts of first instance for most criminal cases except for the most serious crimes, and for civil cases where the value of the claim is below a fixed monetary limit.

The Diocese of the Free State is a diocese in the Anglican Church of Southern Africa.

<i>Volksblad</i> Newspaper

The Volksblad is an Afrikaans-language daily newspaper published in Bloemfontein, South Africa, and distributed in the Free State and Northern Cape provinces, where it is the largest Afrikaans daily. It is South Africa's oldest Afrikaans newspaper. The paper is owned by Media24.

Maluti-a-Phofung Local Municipality Local municipality in Free State, South Africa

Maluti-a-Phofung Local Municipality is an administrative area in the Thabo Mofutsanyane District of the Free State in South Africa. It encompasses substantially all of the former bantustan of QwaQwa, except for the small enclave at Botshabelo. The population is almost entirely Southern Sotho. The municipality is named after the Drakensberg mountains. The peak in Qwaqwa is known as the Sentinel, which is called "Phofung" in Sesotho.

Maluti FET College F.C.

Maluti TVET College is a South African football club based in Phuthaditjhaba, Free State that plays in the ABC Motsepe League.

Setsoto FM Stereo

Setsoto FM Stereo is a South African community radio station based in the Free State. The station is directly responsible and accountable to Maluti Media Network as a community-based project; Setsoto FM is operated by volunteers from within the community of Greater Ficksburg and its surrounding areas. Its vision is to create an empowered and responsible community in a way that is accountable, participatory and transparent.

Werner Griesel is a South African rugby union player, currently playing with the Griffons. His regular position is centre and he occasionally plays on the wing.

George Marich is a South African rugby union player who last played with the Griffons. His regular position is tighthead prop.

Provincial routes are the second category of road in the South African route-numbering scheme. They are designated with the letter "R" followed by a number from 21 to 82 formerly with the letter "P" followed by a number from 66 They serve as feeders to the national routes and as trunk roads in areas where there is no national route.

Orange Free State Command

Orange Free State Command was a command of the South African Army, active from c. 1933 to c. 1999. Its headquarters was at Bloemfontein, seemingly for a period at the Tempe airfield, later to become the Tempe Military Base.

Martinus Jacobus van der Heever is a South African rugby union player. His regular position is hooker.


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  4. "Sub-national HDI - Area Database - Global Data Lab". Retrieved 13 September 2018.
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  6. "Cheetahs Return to Laohu Valley Reserve & The Free State". Retrieved 7 March 2017.
  7. Jens Friis (2 March 2017). "First Wild Cheetahs Born In Free State In Over A Century". Netwerk24. Retrieved 7 March 2017.
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