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South Africa, fastest growing tourist destination

South Africa, fastest growing tourist destination

South Africa

South Africa is fast becoming one of worlds most visited holiday destinations

 

South Africa – Rainbow Nation

South Africa is fast becoming one of worlds most visited holiday destinations. Its easy to understand why, what with the diverse cultures, the architecture, the beaches, the beautiful people, the climate and so much more.

A visit to our beautiful country will reward you with landscapes you never thought possible, wines you never thought existed and a holiday worth a lifetime in memories. Enjoy the oceans, mountains, people and cultures of Cape Town. Join the vibrant, commercially intense population of Johannesburg. Take a break in the friendly city of Port Elizabeth. Soak in the sun and relax on the beaches of KwaZulu Natal. Whatever your preference, South Africa guarantees to cater for it.

Don’t delay. South Africa.com has it all – from flights and accommodation to car rental and things to do. You can get information on and book it all right here. Browse the site and book your holiday to South Africa now!

Eastern Cape

The Eastern Cape Province in South Africa is a diverse region, with varied landscapes, activities and attractions. The province is popular with tourists due to the selection of cities and luxury nature reserves that are located in the province. From dry Karoo areas to dense forests, breathtaking mountains and spectacular coastal destinations, the Eastern Cape can offer it all to visitors.

Port Elizabeth and East London are the two major cities in the province, and stretching out from them, across the region, is a world of adventure and excitement. Natural attractions such as the Addo Elephant Park, Shamwari Game Reserve, Baviaanskloof Wilderness Area, Tsitsikamma National Park and the Amatola Mountains attract thousands of tourists each year. The chance to take a glimpse at the Big Five while still being close enough to internationally known beaches such as in Jeffreys Bay is a convincing lure to the province. Those looking for some major action can also try bungee jumping at Bloukrans Bridge, after which they can discover the magnificence of the Storms River area.

The Eastern Cape is a melting pot of activities that include fishing, bird watching, hiking, water sports, extreme adventures, historical landmarks and unforgettable landscapes. Discover a region that became home to the 1820 settlers and where prominent South African leaders such as, Steve Biko, Nelson Mandela and Charles Coglan grew up and lived. It is a province filled with entertainment, amazement and unmatched beauty.

Free State

Characterized by flat, wide open spaces, broken by majestic mountains, the fertile farming area of the Free State Province of South Africa is often referred to as the ‘bread-basket’ of the country. The Free State lies in the heart of the country, bordering the Kingdom of Lesotho to the south east – a landlocked independent country entirely surrounded by South Africa. The province is not only rich agriculturally, but in mineral deposits as well. However, many would agree that the Free State’s true wealth lies in its natural beauty and its hospitable people.

Bloemfontein, translated literally as “flower fountain” and referred to as the “City of Roses”, is the capital of the Free State as well as being the judicial capital of South Africa. Located in the middle of the province, this vibrant city offers the perfect base for exploring the surrounding area. The Golden Gate Highlands National Park, situated in the northeastern region of the province, is the Free State’s main tourist attraction. Taking its name from the dramatic golden, orange and ochre hued sandstone cliffs that are a dominant feature, the Golden Gate Highlands National Park incorporates superb examples of San rock paintings and hiking trails to suit all abilities. Other attractions that highlight the natural beauty of the Free State are the Willem Pretorius Game Reserve, Gariep Dam nature reserve and the Soetdoring Nature Reserve.

With the Free State lying in the middle of the country, many travel through the province on their way to other destinations, but an increasing number of holiday makers are taking the time to explore this stunning region of South Africa – why don’t you?

Gauteng

The Gauteng Province in South Africa is alive with opportunity. With major cities such as Johannesburg and Pretoria at the centre of this region, the province overflows with industries and businesses that contribute on a large scale to the economy of South Africa. Gauteng might be known as an economic and political center, but it has an endless supply of tourist attractions and historical landmarks. Gauteng is an exciting province to explore, as it has a wonderful combination of manmade marvels and natural wonders for visitors to enjoy.

Museums, nature reserves and monuments take visitors on a magnificent journey of discovery during the day, while top class restaurants, theaters and nightlife will ensure that tourists are entertained throughout the evenings. Visitors are recommended to visit attractions such as Monte Casino, Santarama Miniland, the Johannesburg Planetarium, the Transvaal Museum, Pioneer Museum, Union Buildings and the Pretoria Botanical Gardens. Sporting enthusiasts will also find Gauteng to be a province that is serious about sport, offering activities such as golf, hiking, biking, 4×4 trails, horse riding and water sports.

KwaZulu Natal

When Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama first set eyes on the verdant shores of KwaZulu Natal on 25 December 1497, he named his new discovery “Natal”, being the Portuguese word for Christmas. Since those early days of discovery, KwaZulu Natal has seen its fair share of historical triumphs and tragedies, but it has also seen tremendous growth and development.

KwaZulu Natal consists of three rather distinct geographical areas – the lowland Indian Ocean coastal region, the central Natal Midlands and the mountainous areas of the Drakensberg and Lebombo Mountains. These geographical regions, each with its own unique beauty, offer visitors a world of diversity in one province.

The long stretch of KwaZulu Natal coastline is split at Durban into the North Coast and South Coast, each of which is punctuated with a multitude of small towns and settlements offering a wide variety of tourism facilities and activities. The KZN coastline is a prime holiday destination with both domestic and international tourists who flock to the warm waters and sandy beaches of this beautiful province of South Africa. The city of Durban is vibrant and buzzing with activity all year round, but especially in holiday seasons when all the “up-country” South Africans migrate to “Durbs” for some fun in the sun.

The Natal Midlands is historically, culturally and geographically rich. Take time to explore the Midlands Meander and discover the true beauty of this region and the people who call it home. The majestic Drakensberg Mountains offer outdoor enthusiasts a number of challenging activities, while there are many drive-to lookout points that open up vistas of breath-taking beauty.

Nature lovers will appreciate the many parks and reserves in KwaZulu Natal, including the Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Reserve, St Lucia, Mkuzi Game Reserve, Ndumo Elephant Park, Tembe Elephant Park and Itala Game Reserve. Certainly, KwaZulu Natal is a province to linger over and enjoy at leisure.

Limpopo Province

As South Africa‘s northernmost province, Limpopo Province has Polokwane as its capital city and shares its borders with neighboring countries Botswana, Mozambique and Zimbabwe, as well as neighboring South African provinces, North West, Gauteng and Mpumalanga. Much of the Limpopo Province remains essentially the same as it has for centuries, offering nature lovers the opportunity of experiencing the unblemished beauty of Africa. Visitors to Limpopo Province will find that its diverse terrain is very scenic, providing varied habitats that support abundant bird and animal life.

In addition to its natural beauty, Limpopo has a rich cultural and historical heritage. Archaeological discoveries in Limpopo Province reveal that the area was occupied by black Africans some time before 300 AD, long before the first white pioneers, or Voortrekkers, settled in the area in the early 1800s – a process that was marked with considerable conflict.

Today, Limpopo Province welcomes visitors from far and wide, with its main attractions undeniably being the fascinating wildlife and the breath-taking scenery. The northern section of the world-renowned Kruger National Park lies in Limpopo and the province has a number of its own nature reserves, including the Lapalala Wilderness, Mabalingwe, Nylsvlei Nature Reserve, Blouberg Nature Reserve, Ben Lavin Nature Reserve and the Hans Merensky Reserve, each showcasing the natural treasures of this lovely region of South Africa.

Mpumalanga

The land of the rising sun’ to its Siswati- and Zulu- speaking inhabitants, extends east from Gauteng to Mozambique and Swaziland. To many visitors the province is synonymous with the Kruger National Park, the real draw of South Africa’s east flank, and one of Africa’s best game parks.

Kruger occupies most of Mpumalanga’s and Northern Province’s borders with Mozambique, and covers over 20,000 square kilometers – an area the size of Wales or Massachusetts. Unashamedly populist, Kruger is the easiest African game park to drive around in on your own; staying at one of it’s many well-run rest camps. On its western border lie a number of private reserves, offering the chance to escape the Kruger crush at a price, with well-informed rangers conducting safaris in open vehicles.

Apart from the tempting magnet of big-game country, Mpumalanga also has some stunning scenery in the mountainous area known as the Escarpment, a couple of hours drive west of the Kruger and easily tacked onto a visit to the park. With the exception of Pilgrim’s Rest, none of the Escarpment towns merits exploration, but they make good night stops to and from Kruger, and there are some legendary stunning views as you drive around, where the mountains drop to the Lowveld. The most famous viewpoints – God’s Window, Bourke’s Luck Potholes and Three Rondavels – are along the lip of the Escarpment, which can be seen on a one-day 156 km drive from Sabie.

The views of Blyde River Canyon are most famous of all and, while you can’t drive into the canyon, there are some fabulous hiking and river-rafting opportunities in this area.

North West Province

With Mafikeng as its capital city, the North West Province of South Africa is located to the west of the densely populated Gauteng Province with Limpopo Province to the northeast, Free State to the southeast, Northern Cape to the southwest, and neighboring Botswana to the north. The majestic Magaliesberg mountain range extends from Pretoria through to Rustenburg and the Vaal River winds its way along the southern border of the province. The terrain of the North West Province is primarily flat, consisting of grasslands dotted with trees and shrubs providing ideal game spotting conditions.

The mining of gold, uranium, platinum, and diamonds form the backbone of North West Province’s economy, providing jobs for around twenty-five percent of the workforce. Farming and tourism are also important sources of income, with Sun City, an upscale entertainment and casino complex, providing jobs and bringing revenue into the province, while the “Big 5” Pilanesberg Game Reserve and a number of privately owned game farms offer an authentic South African bushveld experience. Many North West Province towns, such as Hartebeespoort, Rustenburg and Groot Marico offer city dwellers from Pretoria and Johannesburg easy access to some peace and tranquility without having to travel too far.

Northern Cape

Is a province that holds beauty in the form of desert landscapes and dry arid land, that is also renowned for the remarkable transformation that takes place in spring when the desert blossoms in a mass of colorful flowers. Cities scattered throughout this province stand out as oases amid the warm weather and unique animals which have adapted to this harsh expanse have many spectacular survival techniques to be discovered by visitors. For a holiday filled with adventure and surprise, the Northern Cape is the province to be in.

There are a few large cities and fascinating towns in the Northern Cape, such as Kuruman, Upington and Kimberly. Each destination has its own attractions and activities to offer visitors, but as a whole, the province is best known for its natural attractions such as the Kimberly Big Hole, the blooming of the Namaqualand and sand dunes. There are a number of reserves for visitors to visit, including the Augrabies Falls National Park, The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park and the Richtersveld National Park. The Northern Cape is a province in South Africa that mesmerizes and offers an exclusive adventure into one of the most inhospitable landscapes in South Africa.

Western Cape

With the warm Indian Ocean lapping its southern shores and the icy Atlantic Ocean to the west, the Western Cape Province of South Africa offers visitors a world of diversity. The coastline to the west with its small fishing villages and pounding surf has a rugged charm, while to the south lies the picturesque seaside towns of Hermanus and Gansbaai, as well as Cape Agulhas – where the two oceans collide tumultously – and De Hoop Nature Reserve, along what is known as the Cape Whale Coast. Heading along the southern coast toward the Eastern Cape is the Wilderness National Park, incorporating the breath-taking scenery of Mossel Bay, George, Knysna and Plettenberg Bay.

Cape Town, affectionately known as the “Mother City”, is the cultural, business and political hub of the province. Having served as a replenishment station for seafaring vessels for centuries, welcoming settlers from France, Holland, Britain, Germany and other diverse countries, Cape Town is rich in history and a melting pot of cultural diversity which is most appealing. With the iconic Table Mountain as its backdrop, Cape Town is widely considered to be one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

The Cape Winelands, with its vast stretches of vineyards changing colors with the seasons, whitewashed Cape Dutch manor homes and majestic mountains, is a popular holiday destination. The many wine routes winding their way through this region make it possible for visitors to enjoy the local award-winning “fruit of the vine”, world class cuisine and warm hospitality, all in a setting of great beauty and tranquility. Stroll down the oak-lined avenues of Stellenbosch, home to the oldest university in South Africa and the heart of the wine industry, or incorporate the beautiful towns of Franschhoek, Wellington and Paarl into your travels.

More fascinating facets of the Western Cape are revealed in the orchards, grain fields, forests and sweeping vistas of the Overberg, the craggy wilderness of the Cederberg, the wide open spaces of the Groot Karoo, the amazing Cango Caves at Oudtshoorn in the Klein Karoo and much, much more. There are certainly a multitude of reasons why you should consider the Western Cape Province of South Africa as your next vacation destination.

The Baviaanskloof Wilderness Area

The Valley of the Baboons in the Eastern Cape Province (in the sandy soil of this valley one can easily spot their footprints), also known as the Baviaanskloof Wilderness, is a rugged, uncultivated, and beautiful wilderness area that includes the Baviaanskloof and Kouga Mountains, and the valley in-between, less than three hours from Port Elizabeth.

Recognised as a World Heritage Site in 2004, the 180 000 hectare conservation area is South Africa’s third largest, following closely on the heels of the Kruger National Park and the Kalahari. What looks like a relatively simple route through the valley is, however, utterly deceptive.

The Baviaanskloof Wilderness is wild with difficult access and numerous river crossings. There is a dearth of human intervention and an immense feeling of space, despite the gorge. The sometimes narrow track of road that follows dry river beds takes one through some unbelievably breathtaking mountain passes, rock formations, indigenous forest and mountain streams.

It is thus not unusual to see signs saying “Danger, narrow road and sharp curves ahead” and it is probably best to attempt the route in a 4×4 vehicle, but the reward of being able to experience nature as intended, in an area that promises to remain unspoilt because of this difficult passage, makes the journey, that will probably take the better part of a day, all the more worthwhile.

The incredible scenery does not have to be viewed from the confines of your vehicle, however. There is ample opportunity to hike, bird watch, mountain climb and spot flowers. Mountain streams provide warm water pools for swimming and San rock art in the area is well worth viewing..

Baviaanskloof Mega Reserve

With its World Heritage Site Status, the Baviaanskloof Nature Reserve is home to the biggest wilderness area in the country and is also one of the eight protected areas of the Cape Floristic Region.

The Baviaanskloof Mega-Reserve covers 200km of unspoiled, rugged mountainous terrain with spectacular landscapes hosting more than a thousand different plant species, including the Erica and Protea families and species of ancient cycads.

Seven of South Africa’s eight biomes are represented within the Baviaanskloof Nature Reserve – Fynbos, Forest, Grassland, Succulent Karoo, Nama-Karoo, Subtropical Thicket and Savanna.

This magnificent reserve is a must-see for all nature and adventure enthusiasts.

Geology & History

The landscape of the area is dominated by the Kouga- and Baviaanskloof Mountains, which run parallel to each other in an east west orientation. These are part of the Cape Folded Mountains The Kouga range is the larger of the two. Many high peaks occur in the western and central parts of this range while the eastern end is less rugged with plateau’s and hills generally less than 900m in altitude. Smutsberg is the highest peak at 1757m above sea level. The Baviaanskloof Mountains form a long narrow range with Scholtzberg at 1625m being the highest peak. In the east the Baviaanskloof Mountains join the Groot Winterhoek range with Cockscomb being the highest peak, and at I 768m above sea level, the highest peak in the wilderness area.

Two main rivers drain the area, namely the Baviaanskloof- and Kouga River. They converge at Smitskraal from where they flow in an easterly direction to the Kouga dam. The Grootrivier drain the Karoo and flows through the reserve near Komdomo. The Witrivier which has its origins within the reserve joins this.

Although the “modern” Baviaanskloof is about 20 million years old, its precursor dates back 140 million years ago to the break-up of the continents when a major tensional fault formed along what later became known as the Baviaanskloof. Erosion, together with repeated subsidence and upliftment events have over the course of millions of years created the landscape one views today. Contrasting with the steep rugged gorges and mountain slopes are some remarkably flat plateau’s at an altitude of 650-900m. These are part of what is known as the African Land Surface, an old “mature” land surface which can be found over large parts of sub-Saharan Africa. The Table Mountain formations upon which this surface lies are hard and resistant to erosion with the result that the African Land Surface is well preserved within the BWA.

Quartzitic sandstones of the Table Mountain Group dominate the landscape as a whole. All formations belonging to this group can be found in the area, and of these, the Peninsula Sandstone Goudini Sandstones and Cedarberg shales are predominant.

Formations:

Peninsula Sandstone – the oldest formation which usually dominates at higher altitudes and the peaks.

Cedarberg Shale – it separates the Peninsula from the Goudini formation with a 10-40m wide bar and is usually associated with lower lying necks and saddles.

Goudini Sandstone – is generally brown in colour and can often be recognised by the numerous shallow caves in the cliffs.

Skurweberg Sandstone – is associated with the Cockscomb and most of the higher peaks of the Baviaanskloof range.

Sardinia Bay – is mixed with phyllitic shales and small-pebble conglomerate. It can be seen at low altitudes at the eastern end of the Baviaanskloof range.

Baviaanskloof – is dark in colour and, along with the Sardinia Bay formation, is relatively uncommon.

A number of other formations are present but are insubordinate in the landscape. Noteworthy one~ include the Grahamstown Formation which can be found on the flat plateau surfaces and has been termed the African Land surface, and the Enon Conglomerate Formation, a red formation which erodes into dramatic shapes. The only exposed granite formation in the Eastern Cape (as depicted on geological survey maps) occurs within the BWA.

HISTORY

The Baviaanskloof (Valley of Baboons) was once home to San hunter-gatherers and early 18th century settlers, who progressed from hunter to nomadic pasturalist, to a more permanent lifestyle based on agriculture.

The area was once important for the cultivation of pure vegetable seed (onion, carrot, beet root and pumpkin), the mountainous isolation preventing contamination of seed stock. Goats were farmed for the angora goat industry and together with seed production, represented a viable industry.

From the 1920’s it has been managed by The Department of Nature Conservation. Large parts have always been State or “Crown” lands. The construction of the Kouga Dam (or Paul Sauer Dam as it was then known) in the 1960’s and early 1970’s led to much land being bought out and transferred to the Department of Forestry. in 1987 the management of the area was transferred to Cape Nature Conservation and more land was bought out with private funds for the consolidation of the area. Since 1994 it has been managed by Eastern Cape Nature Conservation.

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 reincorporated into South Africa. It is also the only one of the four original provinces of South Africa not to undergo border changes, excluding the reincorporation of Bantustans.

Europeans first visited the country north of the Orange River towards the close of the 18th century. At that time, the population was sparse. The majority of the inhabitants appear to have been members of the Tswana people (also spelled Bechuana), but in the valleys of the Orange and Vaal were Koranbas and other Khoikhois, and in the Drakensberg and on the western border lived numbers of San (Bushmen). Early in the 19th century Griquas established themselves north of the Orange. Between 1817 and 1831, the country was devastated by the chief Mzilikazi and his Matabele in the genocide known as the Mfecane, and large areas became depopulated. Up to this time the few Europeans who had crossed the Orange had come mainly as hunters or as missionaries.

Boer immigration

In 1824 farmers of Dutch, French Huguenot and German descent called Voortrekkers (later named Boers by the English) trekked from the Cape Colony, seeking both pasture for their flocks and to escape British governmental oversight, and settled in the country. They were followed in 1836 by the first parties of the Great Trek. These emigrants left the Cape Colony for various reasons, but all shared the desire to escape from British authority. The leader of the first large party of emigrants, A. H. Potgieter, concluded an agreement with Makwana, the chief of the Bataung tribe of Batswana, ceding to the farmers the country between the Vet and Vaal rivers. When Boer families first reached the area they discovered that it had been devastated by a section of the Zulu tribe under Mzilikazi (sometimes spelled Moselekatse) and his people, afterward called the Matebele. The Matebele had swept the country, destroying the fields, carrying off the cattle, and slaying all the people, saving only the young boys and girls whom they would bring up as Matebele. The Boers soon came into collision with Mzilikazi’s raiding parties, which attacked Boer hunters who crossed the Vaal River. Reprisals followed, and in November 1837 the Boers decisively defeated Mzilikazi, who thereupon fled northward and eventually established himself on the site of the future Bulawayo in Zimbabwe.

In the meantime another party of Cape Dutch emigrants had settled at Thaba Nchu, where the Wesleyans had a mission station for the Barolong. The emigrants were treated with great kindness by Moroka II, the chief of that tribe, and with the Barolong the Boers maintained uniformly friendly relations after they defeated Mzilikazi. In December 1836 the emigrants beyond the Orange drew up in general assembly an elementary republican form of government. After the defeat of Mzilikazi the town of Winburg (so named by the Boers in commemoration of their victory) was founded, a Volksraad elected, and Piet Retief, one of the ablest of the Voortrekkers, chosen “governor and commandant-general”. The emigrants already numbered some 500 men, besides women and children and many servants. Dissensions speedily arose among the emigrants, whose numbers were constantly added to, and Retief, Potgieter and other leaders crossed the Drakensberg and entered Natal. Those that remained were divided into several parties.

British rule

Meanwhile, a new power had arisen along the upper Orange and in the valley of the Caledon. Moshoeshoe, a Basotho king, had welded together a number of scattered and broken clans which had sought refuge in that mountainous region after fleeing from Mzilikazi, and had formed the Basotho nation. In 1833 he had welcomed as workers among his people a band of French Protestant missionaries, and as the Boer immigrants began to settle in his neighborhood he decided to seek support from the British at the Cape. At that time the British government was not prepared to exercise effective control over the immigrants. Acting upon the advice of John Philip, the superintendent of the London Missionary Society’s stations in South Africa, a treaty was concluded in 1843 with Moshoeshoe, placing him under British protection. A similar treaty was made with the Griqua chief, Adam Kok III. By these treaties, which recognised native sovereignty over large areas on which Boer farmers were settled, the British sought to keep a check on the Boers and to protect both the natives and Cape Colony. The effect was to precipitate collisions between all three parties.

The year in which the treaty with Moshoeshoe was made, several large parties of Boers recrossed the Drakensberg into the country north of the Orange, refusing to remain in Natal when the British annexed the newly formed Boer Republic of Natalia to form the Colony of Natal. During their stay in Natal they had inflicted a severe defeat on the Zulus under Dingaan in the Battle of Blood River in December 1838, which, following on the flight of Mzilikazi, greatly strengthened the position of Moshoeshoe, whose power became a menace to that of the Boer farmers. Trouble first arose, however, between the Boers and the Griquas in the Philippolis district. Some of the Boer farmers in this district, unlike their fellows dwelling farther north, were willing to accept British rule, and this fact induced Mr Justice Menzies, one of the judges of Cape Colony then on circuit at Colesberg, to cross the Orange and proclaim the country British territory in October 1842. The proclamation was disallowed by the governor, Sir George Napier, who, nevertheless, maintained that the Boer farmers remained British subjects. After this episode the British negotiated their treaties with Adam Kok and Moshoeshoe.

The treaties gave great offense to the Boers, who refused to acknowledge the sovereignty of the native chiefs. The majority of the Boer farmers in Kok’s territory sent a deputation to the British commissioner in Natal, Henry Cloete, asking for equal treatment with the Griquas, and expressing the desire to come under British protection under such terms. Shortly afterwards hostilities between the farmers and the Griquas broke out. British troops moved up to support the Griquas, and after a skirmish at Zwartkopjes (2 May 1845) a new arrangement was made between Kok and Peregrine Maitland, then governor of Cape Colony, virtually placing the administration of his territory in the hands of a British resident, a post filled in 1846 by Captain Henry Douglas Warden. The place chosen by Captain (afterwards Major) Warden as the seat of his court was known as Bloemfontein, and it subsequently became the capital of the whole country.

Boer governance

The Volksraad at Winburg during this period continued to claim jurisdiction over the Boers living between the Orange and the Vaal and was in federation with the Volksraad at Potchefstroom, which made a similar claim upon the Great Boers living north of the Vaal. In 1846 Major Warden occupied Winburg for a short time, and the relations between the Boers and the British were in a continual state of tension. Many of the farmers deserted Winburg for the Transvaal. Sir Harry Smith became governor of the Cape at the end of 1847. He recognised the failure of the attempt to govern on the lines of the treaties with the Griquas and Basothos, and on 3 February 1848 he issued a proclamation declaring British sovereignty over the country between the Orange and the Vaal eastward to the Drakensberg. Sir Harry Smith’s popularity among the Boers gained for his policy considerable support, but the republican party, at whose head was Andries Pretorius, did not submit without a struggle. They were, however, defeated by Sir Harry Smith in the Battle of Boomplaats on 29 August 1848. Thereupon Pretorius, with those most bitterly opposed to British rule, retreated across the Vaal.[7]

Orange River Sovereignty

In March 1849 Major Warden was succeeded at Bloemfontein as civil commissioner by Mr C. U. Stuart, but he remained the British resident until July 1852. A nominated legislative council was created, a high court established and other steps taken for the orderly government of the country, which was officially styled the Orange River Sovereignty. In October 1849 Moshoeshoe was induced to sign a new arrangement considerably curtailing the boundaries of the Basotho reserve. The frontier towards the Sovereignty was thereafter known as the Warden line. A little later the reserves of other chieftains were precisely defined.

The British Resident had, however, no force sufficient to maintain his authority, and Moshoeshoe and all the neighboring clans became involved in hostilities with one another and with the Europeans. In 1851 Moshoeshoe joined the republican party in the Sovereignty in an invitation to Pretorius to recross the Vaal. The intervention of Pretorius resulted in the Sand River Convention of 1852, which acknowledged the independence of the Transvaal but left the status of the Sovereignty untouched. The British government (under the first Russell administration), which had reluctantly agreed to the annexation of the country, had, however, already repented its decision and had resolved to abandon the Sovereignty. Lord Henry Grey, Secretary of State for War and the Colonies, in a dispatch to Sir Harry Smith dated 21 October 1851, declared, “The ultimate abandonment of the Orange Sovereignty should be a settled point in our policy.”

A meeting of representatives of all European inhabitants of the Sovereignty, elected on manhood suffrage, held at Bloemfontein in June 1852, nevertheless declared in favour of the retention of British rule. At the close of that year a settlement was at length concluded with Moshoeshoe, which left, perhaps, that chief in a stronger position than he had hitherto been. There had been ministerial changes in England and the Aberdeen ministry, then in power, adhered to the determination to withdraw from the Sovereignty. Sir George Russell Clerk was sent out in 1853 as special commissioner “for the settling and adjusting of the affairs” of the Sovereignty, and in August of that year he summoned a meeting of delegates to determine upon a form of self-government.

At that time there were some 15,000 Europeans in the country, many of them recent immigrants from Cape Colony. There were among them numbers of farmers and tradesmen of British descent. The majority of the whites still wished for the continuance of British rule provided that it was effective and the country guarded against its enemies. The representations of their delegates, who drew up a proposed constitution retaining British control, were unavailing. Sir George Clerk announced that, as the elected delegates were unwilling to take steps to form an independent government, he would enter into negotiations with other persons. ” And then,” wrote George McCall Theal, “was seen forced the strange spectacle of an English commissioner addressing men who wished to be free of British control as the friendly and well-disposed inhabitants, while for those who desired to remain British subjects and who claimed that protection to which they believed themselves entitled he had no sympathising word.”[8] While the elected delegates sent two members to England to try and induce the government to alter their decision, Sir George Clerk speedily came to terms with a committee formed by the republican party and presided over by Mr J. H. Hoffman. Even before this committee met a royal proclamation had been signed (30 January 1854) “abandoning and renouncing all dominion” in the Sovereignty.

The Orange River Convention, recognising the independence of the country, was signed at Bloemfontein on 23 February by Sir George Clerk and the republican committee, and in March the Boer government assumed office and the republican flag was hoisted. Five days later the representatives of the elected delegates had an interview in London with the colonial secretary, the Duke of Newcastle, who informed them that it was now too late to discuss the question of the retention of British rule. The colonial secretary added that it was impossible for England to supply troops to constantly advancing outposts, “especially as Cape Town and the port of Table Bay were all she really required in South Africa.” In withdrawing from the Sovereignty the British government declared that it had “no alliance with any native chief or tribes to the northward of the Orange River with the exception of the Griqua chief Captain Adam Kok [III]”. Kok was not formidable in a military sense, nor could he prevent individual Griquas from alienating their lands. Eventually, in 1861, he sold his sovereign rights to the Free State for £4000 and moved with his followers to the district later known as Griqualand East.

On the abandonment of British rule, representatives of the people were elected and met at Bloemfontein on 28 March 1854, and between then and 18 April were engaged in framing a constitution. The country was declared a republic and named the Orange Free State. All persons of European blood possessing a six months’ residential qualification were to be granted full burgher rights. The sole legislative authority was vested in a single popularly elected chamber of the Volksraad. Executive authority was entrusted to a president elected by the burghers from a list submitted by the Volksraad. The president was to be assisted by an executive council, was to hold office for five years and was eligible for re-election. The constitution was subsequently modified but remained of a liberal character. A residence of five years in the country was required before aliens could become naturalised. The first president was Josias Philip Hoffman, but he was accused of being too complaisant towards Moshoeshoe and resigned, being succeeded in 1855 by Jacobus Nicolaas Boshoff, one of the voortrekkers, who had previously taken an active part in the affairs of the Natalia Republic.

Conflict with the South African Republic

Distracted among themselves, with the formidable Basotho power on their southern and eastern flank, the troubles of the infant state were speedily added to by the action of the Transvaal Boers of the South African Republic. Marthinus Pretorius, who had succeeded to his father’s position as commandant general of Potchefstroom, wished to bring about a confederation between the two Boer states. Peaceful overtures from Pretorius were declined, and some of his partisans in the Free State were accused of treason in February 1857. Thereupon Pretorius, aided by Paul Kruger, conducted a raid into the Free State territory. On learning of the invasion President Jacobus Nicolaas Boshoff proclaimed martial law throughout the country. The majority of the burghers rallied to his support, and on 25 May the two opposing forces faced one another on the banks of the Rhenoster. President Boshoff not only got together some 800 men within the Free State, but he received offers of support from Commandant Stephanus Schoeman, the Transvaal leader in the Zoutpansberg district and from Commandant Joubert of Lydenburg. Pretorius and Kruger, realising that they would have to sustain attack from both north and south, abandoned their enterprise. Their force, too, only amounted to some three hundred. Kruger came to Boshoff’s camp with a flag of truce, the “army” of Pretorius returned north and on 2 June a treaty of peace was signed, each state acknowledging the absolute independence of the other.

The conduct of Pretorius was stigmatised as “blameworthy.” Several of the malcontents in the Free State who had joined Pretorius permanently settled in the Transvaal, and other Free Staters who had been guilty of high treason were arrested and punished. This experience did not, however, heal the party strife within the Free State. In consequence of the dissensions among the burghers President Boshoff tendered his resignation in February 1858, but was for a time induced to remain in office. The difficulties of the state were at that time so great that the Volksraad in December 1858 passed a resolution in favor of confederation with the Cape Colony. This proposition received the strong support of Sir George Grey, then governor of Cape Colony, but his view did not commend itself to the British government, and was not adopted.

In the same year, the disputes between the Basotho and the Boers culminated in open war. Both parties laid claims to land beyond the Warden line, and each party had taken possession of what it could, the Basotho being also expert cattle-lifters. In the war the advantage rested with the Basotho; thereupon the Free State appealed to Sir George Grey, who induced Moshoeshoe to come to terms. On 15 October 1858, a treaty was signed defining the new boundary. The peace was nominal only, while the burghers were also involved in disputes with other tribes. Mr. Boshoff again tendered his resignation in February 1859 and retired to Natal. Many of the burghers would have at this time welcomed union with the Transvaal, but learning from Sir George Grey that such a union would nullify the conventions of 1852 and 1854 and necessitate the reconsideration of Great Britain’s policy towards the native tribes north of the Orange and Vaal rivers, the project dropped. Commandant Andries Pretorius was, however, elected president in place of Mr Boshoff. Though unable to effect a durable peace with the Basotho, or to realise his ambition for the creation of one powerful Boer republic, Pretorius saw the Free State begin to grow in strength. The fertile district of Bethulie as well as Adam Kok’s territory was acquired, and there was a considerable increase in the Boer population. The burghers generally, however, had little confidence in their elected rulers and little desire for taxes to be levied. Wearied like Mr Boshoff, and more interested in affairs in the Transvaal than in those of the Free State, Pretorius resigned the presidency in 1863.

After an interval of seven months, Johannes Brand, an advocate at the Cape bar, was elected president. He assumed office in February 1864. His election proved a turning-point in the history of the country, which, under his guidance, became peaceful and prosperous. But before peace could be established an end had to be made of the difficulties with the Basothos. Moshoeshoe continued to menace the Free State border. Attempts at accommodation made by the governor of Cape Colony, Sir Philip Wodehouse, failed, and war between the Free State and Moshoeshoe was renewed in 1865. The Boers gained considerable successes, and this induced Moshoeshoe to sue for peace. The terms exacted were, however, too harsh for a nation yet unbroken to accept permanently. A treaty was signed at Thaba Bosiu in April 1866, but war again broke out in 1867, and the Free State attracted to its side a large number of adventurers from all parts of South Africa. The burghers thus reinforced gained at length a decisive victory over their great antagonist, every stronghold in Basutoland save Thaba Bosiu being stormed. Moshoeshoe now turned to Sir Philip Wodehouse for preservation. His call was heeded, and in 1868 he and his country were taken under British protection. Thus the thirty years’ strife between the Basothos and the Boers came to an end. The intervention of the governor of Cape Colony led to the conclusion of the treaty of Aliwal North (12 February 1869), which defined the borders between the Orange Free State and Basutoland. The country lying to the north of the Orange River and west of the Caledon River, formerly a part of Basutoland, was ceded to the Free State, and became known as the Conquered Territory.

A year after the addition of the Conquered Territory to the state another boundary dispute was settled by the arbitration of Robert William Keate, lieutenant-governor of Natal. By the Sand River Convention, independence had been granted to the Boers living “north of the Vaal”, and the dispute turned on the question as to what stream constituted the true upper course of that river. Mr Keate decided on 19 February 1870 against the Free State view and fixed the Klip River as the dividing line, the Transvaal thus securing the Wakkerstroom and adjacent districts.

Diamonds discovered

The Basutoland difficulties were no sooner arranged than the Free Staters found themselves confronted with a serious difficulty on their western border. In the years 1870–1871 a large number of foreign diggers had settled on the diamond fields near the junction of the Vaal and Orange rivers, which were situated in part on land claimed by the Griqua chief Nicholas Waterboer and by the Free State.

The Free State established a temporary government over the diamond fields, but the administration of this body was satisfactory neither to the Free State nor to the diggers. At this juncture Waterboer offered to place the territory under the administration of Queen Victoria. The offer was accepted, and on 27 October 1871 the district, together with some adjacent territory to which the Transvaal had laid claim, was proclaimed, under the name of Griqualand West, British territory. Waterboer’s claims were based on the treaty concluded by his father with the British in 1834, and on various arrangements with the Kok chiefs; the Free State based its claim on its purchase of Adam Kok’s sovereign rights and on long occupation. The difference between proprietorship and sovereignty was confused or ignored. That Waterboer exercised no authority in the disputed district was admitted. When the British annexation took place a party in the Volksraad wished to go to war with Britain, but the counsels of President Johannes Brand prevailed. The Free State, however, did not abandon its claims. The matter involved no little irritation between the parties concerned until July 1876. It was then disposed of by Henry Herbert, 4th Earl of Carnarvon, at that time Secretary of State for the Colonies, who granted to the Free State a £90,000 payment “in full satisfaction of all claims which it considers it may possess to Griqualand West.” Lord Carnarvon declined to entertain the proposal made by Mr Brand that the territory should be given up by Great Britain.

In the opinion of historian George McCall Theal, the annexation of Griqualand West was probably in the best interests of the Free State. “There was,” he stated, “no alternative from British sovereignty other than an independent diamond field republic.”

At this time, largely owing to the struggle with the Basothos, the Free State Boers, like their Transvaal neighbors, had drifted into financial straits. A paper currency had been instituted, and the notes, known as “bluebacks”, soon dropped to less than half their nominal value. Commerce was largely carried on by barter, and many cases of bankruptcy occurred in the state. The influx of British and other immigrants to the diamond fields, in the early 1870s, restored public credit and individual prosperity to the Boers of the Free State. The diamond fields offered a ready market for stock and other agricultural produce. Money flowed into the pockets of the farmers. Public credit was restored. “Bluebacks” recovered par value, and were called in and redeemed by the government. Valuable diamond mines were also discovered within the Free State, of which the one at Jagersfontein was the richest. Capital from Kimberley and London was soon provided with which to work them.

Peaceful relations with neighbours

The relations between the British and the Free State, after the question of the boundary was once settled, remained perfectly amicable down to the outbreak of the Second Boer War in 1899. From 1870 onward the history of the state was one of quiet, steady progress. At the time of the first annexation of the Transvaal the Free State declined Lord Carnarvon’s invitation to federate with the other South African communities. In 1880, when a rising of the Boers in the Transvaal was threatening, President Brand showed every desire to avert the conflict. He suggested that Sir Henry de Villiers, Chief Justice of Cape Colony, should be sent into the Transvaal to endeavour to gauge the true state of affairs in that country. This suggestion was not acted upon, but when war broke out in the Transvaal, Brand declined to take any part in the struggle. In spite of the neutral attitude taken by their government a number of the Free State Boers, living in the northern part of the country, went to the Transvaal and joined their brethren then in arms against the British. This fact was not allowed to influence the friendly relations between the Free State and Great Britain. In 1888 Sir Johannes Brand died.

During the period of Brand’s presidency a great change, both political and economic, had come over South Africa. The renewal of the policy of British expansion had been answered by the formation of the Afrikaner Bond, which represented the aspirations of the Afrikaner people, and had active branches in the Free State. This alteration in the political outlook was accompanied, and in part occasioned, by economic changes of great significance. The development of the diamond mines and of the gold and coal industries — of which Brand saw the beginning — had far-reaching consequences, bringing the Boer republics into contact with the new industrial era. The Free Staters, under Brand’s rule, had shown considerable ability to adapt their policy to meet the altered situation. In 1889 an agreement made between the Free State and the Cape Colony government, whereby the latter was empowered to extend, at its own cost, its railway system to Bloemfontein. The Free State retained the right to purchase this extension at cost, a right it exercised after the Jameson Raid.

Having accepted the assistance of the Cape government in constructing its railway, the state also in 1889 entered into a Customs Union Convention with them. The convention was the outcome of a conference held at Cape Town in 1888, at which delegates from Natal, the Free State and the Cape Colony attended. Natal at this time had not seen its way to entering the Customs Union, but did so at a later date.

Renewal of hostilities

In January 1889 Francis William Reitz was elected president of the Free State. Reitz had no sooner got into office than a meeting was arranged with Paul Kruger, president of the South African Republic, at which various terms were discussed and decided upon regarding an agreement dealing with the railways, terms of a treaty of amity and commerce, and what was called a political treaty. The political treaty referred in general terms to a federal union between the South African Republic and the Orange Free State, and bound each of them to help the other, whenever the independence of either should be assailed or threatened from without, unless the state so called upon for assistance should be able to show the injustice of the cause of quarrel in which the other state had engaged. While thus committed to an alliance with its northern neighbour no change was made in internal administration. The Free State, in fact, from its geographical position reaped the benefits without incurring the anxieties consequent on the settlement of a large Uitlander population on the Witwatersrand. The state, however, became increasingly identified with the reactionary party in the South African Republic. In 1895 the Volksraad passed a resolution, in which they declared their readiness to entertain a proposition from the South African Republic in favour of some form of federal union. In the same year Reitz retired from the presidency of the Orange Free State. The 1896 presidential election to succeed him was won by M. T. Steyn, a judge of the High Court, who took office in February 1896. In 1896 President Steyn visited Pretoria, where he received an ovation as the probable future president of the two Republics. A further offensive and defensive alliance between the two Republics was then entered into, under which the Orange Free State took up arms on the outbreak of hostilities between the British and the South African Republic in October 1899.

In 1897 President Kruger, bent on still further cementing the union with the Orange Free State, had visited Bloemfontein. It was on this occasion that Kruger, referring to the London Convention, spoke of Queen Victoria as a kwaaje Vrouw (angry woman), an expression which caused a good deal of offence in England at the time, but which, in the phraseology of the Boers, was not meant by President Kruger as insulting.

In December 1897 the Free State revised its constitution in reference to the franchise law, and the period of residence necessary to obtain naturalization was reduced from five to three years. The oath of allegiance to the state was alone required, and no renunciation of nationality was insisted upon. In 1898 the Free State also acquiesced in the new convention arranged with regard to the Customs Union between the Cape Colony, Natal, Basutoland and the Bechuanaland Protectorate. But events were moving rapidly in the Transvaal, and matters had proceeded too far for the Free State to turn back. In May 1899 President Steyn suggested the conference at Bloemfontein between President Kruger and Sir Alfred Milner, but this act was too late. The Free Staters were practically bound to the South African Republic, under the offensive and defensive alliance, in case hostilities arose with Great Britain.

The Free State began to expel British subjects in 1899, and the first act of the Second Boer War was committed by Free State Boers, who, on 11 October 1899, seized a train upon the border belonging to Natal. For President Steyn and the Free State of 1899, neutrality was impossible. A resolution was passed by the volksraad on 27 September declaring that the state would observe its obligations to the Transvaal whatever might happen.

After the surrender of Piet Cronjé in the Battle of Paardeberg on 27 February 1900, Bloemfontein was occupied by the British troops under Lord Roberts from March 13 onward, and on 28 May a proclamation was issued annexing the Free State to the British dominions under the title of Orange River Colony. For nearly two years longer the burghers kept the field under Christiaan de Wet and other leaders, but by the articles of peace signed on 31 May 1902 British sovereignty was acknowledged.

Geography

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.[4] 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.

Climate

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

Borders

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

Mokhotlong – farthest to the east

Butha-Buthe – northwest of Mokhotlong and northeast of Leribe

Leribe – southwest of Butha-Buthe and northeast of Berea

Berea – southwest of Leribe and north of Maseru

Maseru – south of Berea and northeast of Mafeteng

Mafeteng – southwest of Maseru and northwest of Mohale’s Hoek

Mohale’s Hoek – southeast of Mafeteng

Domestically, it borders the following provinces:

KwaZulu-Natal – east

Eastern Cape – south

Northern Cape – west

North West – northwest

Gauteng – north

Mpumalanga – northeast

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

Economy

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.

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. 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).

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 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.

Industry

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.

Tourism

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.

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.

Demographics

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.

Ethnicity

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%.[6] 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 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%).

North West

North West is a province of South Africa. Its capital is Mahikeng. The province is located to the west of the major population centre of Gauteng.

History

North West was created after the end of Apartheid in 1994, and includes parts of the former Transvaal Province and Cape Province, as well as most of the former Bantustan of Bophuthatswana. It was the scene of political violence in Khutsong, Merafong City Local Municipality in 2006 and 2007, after cross-province municipalities were abolished and Merafong Municipality was transferred entirely to North West. Merafong has since been transferred to Gauteng province in 2009.

Geography

Hamerkop Kloof between Rustenburg and Pretoria on north-facing slopes of Magaliesberg

Much of the province consists of flat areas of scattered trees and grassland. The Magaliesberg mountain range in the northeast extends about 130 km (about 80 miles) from Pretoria to Rustenburg. The Vaal River flows along the southern border of the province.

Climate

Temperatures range from 17° to 31 °C (62° to 88 °F) in the summer and from 3° to 21 °C (37° to 70 °F) in the winter. Annual rainfall totals about 360 mm (about 14 in), with almost all of it falling during the summer months, between October and April.

Borders

North West borders the following districts of Botswana:

Kgatleng – far northeast

South-East – northeast

Southern – north

Kgalagadi – northwest

Limpopo – northeast

Gauteng – east

Free State – southeast

Northern Cape – southwest

Economy

The mainstay of the economy of North West Province is mining, which generates more than half of the province’s gross domestic product and provides jobs for a quarter of its workforce. The chief minerals are gold, mined at Orkney and Klerksdorp; uranium, mined at Klerksdorp; platinum, mined at Rustenburg and Brits; and diamonds, mined at Lichtenburg, Christiana, and Bloemhof. The northern and western parts of the province have many sheep farms and cattle and game ranches. The eastern and southern parts are crop-growing regions that produce maize (corn), sunflowers, tobacco, cotton, and citrus fruits. The entertainment and casino complex at Sun City and Lost City also contributes to the provincial economy.

Demographics

The majority of the province’s residents are the Tswana people who speak Tswana. Smaller groups include Afrikaans, Sotho, and Xhosa speaking people. English is spoken primarily as a second language. Most of the population belong to Christian denominations. (Figures according to Census 2001 released in July 2003).

According to the 2007 community survey 90.8% of the province’s population was Black (mostly Tswana-speaking), 7.2% as White (mostly Afrikaans speaking), 1.6% as Coloured and 0.4% as Asian. The 2007 community survey showed the province had a population of just over 3 million. The province’s white population is very unevenly distributed. In the southern and eastern municipalities, the white percentage in double figures such as the Tlokwe and Matlosana where the white percentages were 27% and 12% respectively.

The province has the lowest number of people aged 35 years and older (5.9%) who have received higher education. Since 1994 the number of people receiving higher education has increased. After the disbanding of the bantustans, many people migrated to the economic centres of Cape Town and Gauteng.