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Foreistata (in Sotho)
Vrystaat (in Afrikaans)
|Province of South Africa|
|Motto: Katleho ka kopano
(Success through unity)
Location of the Free State in South Africa
|Orange Free State||17 February 1854|
|OFS Province||31 May 1910|
|Free State||27 April 1994|
|• Type||Parliamentary system|
|• Premier||Ace Magashule (ANC)|
|• Total||129,825 km2 (50,126 sq mi)|
|Area rank||3rd in South Africa|
|Highest elevation||3,291 m (10,797 ft)|
|• Estimate (2017)||2,866,700|
|• Rank||8th in South Africa|
|• Density||21/km2 (55/sq mi)|
|• Density rank||8th in South Africa|
|• Black African||87.6%|
|• Indian or Asian||0.4%|
|Time zone||SAST (UTC+2)|
|ISO 3166 code||ZA-FS|
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.
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 premier of Free State as of 2009 was Ace Magashule of the African National Congress.
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.
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. 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.
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.
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.
The Free State's major towns include:
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 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.
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.
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.
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%. 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%).
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