Perfectly located at centre of the country, the Free State represents 10.6% of the total land area of South Africa. It boasts majestic horizons, angelic blue skies and sprawling mountains. With a population of 2.7 million and land area covering 129 480 km2 the province had the second smallest share of the country’s population.The province ingeniously borders most of the other provinces, the exceptions being Limpopo and the Western Cape. To the east, it has an international boundary with Lesotho nestling magically in the hollow of its beanlike shape, and the escarpment separates it from the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal. The winding Orange and Vaal rivers effortlessly form the southern, western and most of the northern border.
The Klip River elegantly completes this picture forming the last section of the north-eastern boundary of the province. The western part consists of plains, with enchanting pans as primary hydrological feature. The eastern part boosts rolling mountainous. The Maluti Mountains are connected to the Drakensberg on the border with KwaZulu-Natal. The south consists mainly of grasslands with the tranquil Karoo dominating the landscape. The province is a summer-rainfall region with liquid sun beaming forever and endless cold nights during the winter months.
The province has four and one metropolitan municipalities. Mangaung is a bustling metropolis comprised mainly of open grassland, with undulating mountains in the most eastern region. The main urban centre is Bloemfontein. The city is the trade and administrative hub of the province. It admirably boasts the provincial government and it is the seat of the Appeal Court of South Africa. Bloemfontein is revered throughout the world as the birthplace of the African National Congress formed in 1912 and the National Party in 1914.
The Xhariep District is located in the south-west of the province. It is a semi-arid area with mystical and intriguing solitary landscape with low shrubby vegetation sprinkled in in most part of the district. The main economic activity is primarily sheep farming spread across small wide dispersed towns. The Xhariep Dam is one of the tourists’ attractions with a variety of unforgettable leisure facilities.
Thabo Mofutsanyana district borders Lesotho to the east and has unbroken beautiful hills. The district’s spectacular scenic beauty of the Drakensberg and Maluti mountain ranges makes it one of the most important tourism destinations in the province. Other attractions include the Golden Gate Highland Park rich with archaeological sites, the annual cherry festival at Ficksburg, a Basutho cultural village in Maluti-a-Phofung, and Khoisan rock paintings.
The Fezile Dabi District is an important agricultural production area with radiant stretch of maize fields that feeds the nation. The sparkling water of the Vaal Dam is the main source of water with memorable leisure facilities. Other attractions Page2 include the Vredefort Dome, which is the third largest meteorite site in the world and historic San paintings. Sasolburg is the location of the country’s largest chemical and synthetic fuel plant.
Nature has blessed the Lejweleputswa District with endless goldfields. The district forms part of the larger Witwatersrand basin. The early 1940s marked the excitement of prospecting and the discovery of gold in the district. Bothaville is one of the important maize centres in the country. The annual National Maize Production Organisation festival attracts more than 50 000 visitors and is the second largest private show in the world.
The agricultural sector remains one of the mainstays of the provincial economy. The irresistible fertile landscape of the province is a home to a variety of agricultural produce that combine all colours to green. The province is still the major contributor to food security for the entire country with considerable labour absorption rate. It is also the locus of rural development with thriving small towns. In 2010, agriculture contributed 3.8% to the provincial economy and accounting for 19.2% of all formal employment opportunities. Notably, this sector contributed about 8% to the country’s agricultural output. Mangaung, Nala and Dihlabeng municipalities has the higher agricultural gross value add per hectare with maize, wheat, cattle and sheep overwhelm the provincial agricultural landscape. Distinct high value produce such as peaches, cherries, apples, cut flowers, sorghum, asparagus, beans, cabbage and carrots completes the agricultural picture.
The province is endowed with the grandeur of mineral resources, the most dominant being the glittering gold. In 2010, the mining sector contributed 9% to the provincial economy and employed over 33 000 people. Two considerable gold reserves with an estimated 20 year life span exist in Lejweleputswa district covering parts of Matjhabeng, Nala and Ngwathe, Metsimaholo municipalities. This also includes sizable areas of Metsimaholo municipality. There is high production of sparkling diamonds in Moqhaka municipality. Significant potential for mining of low grade coal in Matjhabeng, Nala, Moqhaka, Ngwathe and Metsimaholo municipalities also exist. The province also has differentiated potential in a range of other commodities. There is salt in the municipalities of Matjhabeng, Masilonyana, Tswelopele, Tokologo and Letsemeng. Clay fields are also a dominant feature of Moqhaka, Ngwathe and Metsimaholo. There are also gypsum fields in Tokologo and discrete uranium zones that can be explored in Setsoto and Dihlabeng municipalities.
The manufacturing sector makes up 14% of the provincial economic output. The petro-chemicals sector constitutes more than 85% of the economic output for manufacturing. This sector also accounts for more than 85% of manufacturing output and 29% of the sector’s employment. Metsimaholo (Sasolburg) is the Page3 leading locality with high petro-chemical manufacturing production. This also includes immeasurable down and up-stream activities linked to this sub-sector. Mangaung metro also features as a prominent manufacturing area of fuel, petroleum, rubber and chemicals. Mangaung also has a compelling food and beverage industry. Llinkages between agriculture and manufacturing through agro-processing are also being strengthened. Innovation and experimentation are also pivotal drivers of manufacturing through Research and Development (R&D). High R&D potential linked to the growth of manufacturing exists in Mangaung due to the prominence of two universities. The potential for R&D in agro-processing exist in primarily Mangaung, Nala and Dihlabeng municipalities with high agricultural output.
The central location of the Free State and the fact that significant large volumes of freight are moved across the surface of the province gives it a competitive urge. The province’s road network comprises about 1 615km of national roads, 6 316km of surfaced roads, 21 486km of gravel secondary roads and 22 000km of gravel tertiary roads. The Harrismith node on the N3 corridor between Gauteng and Kwazulu-Natal is of significance while the N8 corridor is also important. The N1 flows through the province linking Gauteng and the Western Cape. The state of the art Bloemfontein international airport is a busy gateway to the province and handles about 250 000 passengers on a yearly basis. This includes international, domestic, and non-scheduled flights. The airport also handles about 221 000 tons of cargo a year, primarily consisting of courier items and spare parts for machinery. Most of the other towns have their own airfields.
With its breath taking beauty and captivating scenery, tourists into the province will also be left with magnificent memories of the Free State. The province caters for every need. In 2010, the hotels and restaurants subsector of tourism contributed 0.4% to the provincial economy. Between 1996 and 2010, the sector grew by 1.2% per annum and approximately 6 5000 people were employed in the hotels and restaurants sub-sector in 2010.
|Nature of Tourism||Nature of Tourism|
|Natural resource-based tourism and weekend tourism: Golden Gate, Maloti-Drakensberg Transfrontier Park, also agri-tourism (Cherry Festival), lifestyle and links to Lesotho, Xhariep Dam, Vredefort Dome||Clarens, Golden Gate, Drakensberg area, Fouriesburg, Ficksburg, Rosendal, Memel, Xhariep Dam, Vredefort.|
|Events and entertainment: Casinos, conferences, theatres and concert halls, rofessional soccer, rugby, and cricket, Volksblad Arts Festival, Macufe, and historical||PredominantlyBloemfontein (Mangaung)|
|Events and weekend tourism: Annual national event (Jukskei Park), Kroon Park||Kroonstad (Moqhaka)|
|Events, weekend tourism, and entertainment: Arts, theatre, visits to petro-chemical factories, leisure, and water sports (Vaaldam)||Sasolburg, Deneysville, Parys, (Metsimaholo)|
|Events and entertainment: Phakisa Race Track events and Gold Mining||Welkom (Matjhabeng)|