The Free State local government sector is constituted by the Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality (Bloemfontein, Botshabelo and Thaba Nchu) and four district municipalities.
Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality
The former Motheo District and Mangaung Local Municipalities were disestablished following the 2011 local government elections. The Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality became the first metropolitan municipality of the Free State province and is also the capital city of the Free State province. Being the sixth largest city in the country, the Mangaung municipal area covers more than 6 263km2 and hosts a population of about 850 000 people.
The Mangaung area is where the roots of the African National Congress as liberation movement are whilst it was also the founding place of the former National Party. Its rich culture and history, which combine comfortably with the dynamic urban life of a metropolis, is at the heart of its tourism potential. Diversity extends from vibrant sport and cultural events to the tranquility of its parks, the Bloemfontein Zoo and the reserve on Naval Hill.
Fezile Dabi District
The Vaal River and the Vaal Dam form the northern boundary of Fezile Dabi District Municipality and also serve as the boundary between Free State and Gauteng. The Fezile Dabi District Municipality area is approximately 240,190 square kilometers in extent and makes up about 27% of the total area of the Free State Province. Although Fezile Dabi contains 17% of Free State’s population, it is the second smallest district municipality.
The Vaal River and the Vaal Dam are some of the main features of the area. Many excellent resorts line the banks of the river and makes this a popular venue for angling, wind surfing, water-skiing, paragliding and river rafting. Bird and animal life abounds in game and nature reserves. The Vredefort Dome, the third largest Meteorite site in the world, is located within the district. The area of jurisdiction of Fezile Dabi covers four local municipalities, namely:
- Fezile Dabi District Municipality
- Mafube Local Municipality comprising of the towns of Frankfort, Villiers, Cornelia and Tweeling
- Metsimaholo Local Municipality comprising of the towns of Sasolburg, Oranjeville and Deneysville.
- Moqhaka Local Municipality comprising of the towns of Kroonstad, Steynsrus Viljoenskroon
- Ngwathe Local Municipality comprising of the town of Parys, Edenville, Heilbron, Koppies, and Vredefort.
The Lejweleputswa District Municipality area is situated in the north western part of the Free State and borders North West to the north; Fezile Dabi and Thabo Mofutsanyane to the north east and east respectively; Motheo and Xhariep to the south; and the Northern Cape to the west.
One of the main strengths of the Lejweleputswa is its diverse tourism sector which includes the Free State Goldfiels, nature resorts and reserves such as the Willem Pretorius Game & Nature Reserve, Aldam Estate, the Soetdoring and Sandveld Nature Reserves, the Phakisa Free Way and the annual NAMPO Harvest Day. The local sector in Lejweleputswa is constituted by the following municipalities:
- Lejweleputswa District Municipality
- Matjhabeng Local Municipality comprising of the towns of Welkom, Odendaalsrus, Virginia, Hennenman, Allanridge and Ventersburg.
- Nala Local Municipality comprising of the towns of Bothaville and Wesselsbron
- Tokologo Local Municipality comprising of the towns of Boshof, Dealesville and Hertzogville,
- Tswelopele Local Municipality comprising of the towns of Bultfontein and Hoopstad
- Masilonyana Local Municipality comprising of the towns of Theunissen, Brandfort, Soutpan, Verkeerdevlei and Winburg.
Thabo Mofutsanyana District
The district forms the north-eastern part of the Free State Province and is one of four district municipalities in the Free State. It is bordered by two other district municipalities of the province namely, Lejweleputswa in the west and Fezile Dhabi in the north. Other borders include Lesotho in the southeast, KwaZulu Natal in the East and Mpumalanga in the northeast.
The district is one of the most important tourist destinations in the Free State, mainly because of the spectacular scenic beauty of the Drakensberg and Maluti mountain ranges. One of the most famous attractions is the Golden Gate Highland National Park, which is well known for its spectacular sandstone formations. The district comprises of the following municipalities:
- Thabo Mofutsanyana District Municipality
- Maluti-a-Phofung Local Municipality comprising of the towns of Phuthaditjhaba, Harrismith and Kestell as well as the QwaQwa rural areas.
- Dihlabeng Local Municipality comprising of the towns of Bethlehem, Clarens, Fouriesburg, Paul Roux and Rosendal.
- Mantsopa Local Municipality comprising of the towns of Ladybrandt, Excelsior, Hobhouse, Thaba Phatchoa and Tweespruit. The municipality previously formed part of the Motheo District that was disestablished following the 2011 local government elections and the establishment of the Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality.
- Nketoana Local Municipality comprising of the towns of Reitz, Arlington, Lindley and Petrus Steyn.
- Phumelela Local Municipality comprising of the towns of Warden, Memel and Vrede.
- Setsoto Local Municipality comprising of the towns of Ficksburg, Clocolan, Marquard, Senekal,
The District constitutes the southern part of the Free State Province and covers an area of approximately 34,249 km² and is bordered by the Lejweleputswa district and the Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality in the North. The southern border is also the provincial border with the neighbouring provinces of the Northern and Eastern Cape provinces. The Orange River, a 2 000 km long river, is one of the most prominent features of the district. The country’s only two hydro-electric power stations are situated on the Orange River, at the Xhariep and Vanderkloof dams. The district is the smallest compared to the other four districts with about 5.2% share of the total provincial population.
Tourism attractions include the well-known Xhariep Dam, the Landzicht wine cellar at Jacobsdal, the Open Mine museum and the mining hole in Jagersfontein, the fish hatchery at Xhariep, the tiger project at Phillipolis, various historical battle sites and the annual Fauresmith Endurance Equestrian event. Municipalities of the Xhariep district are:
- Xhariep District Municipality
- Letsemeng Local Municipality comprising of the towns of Koffiefontein, Jacobsdal, Luckhoff, Oppermansgronde and Petrusburg
- Kopanong Local Municipality Trompsburg, Reddersburg, Edenburg Jagersfontein, Fauresmith, Springfontein, Philippolis, Bethulie and Gariep Dam
- Mohokare Local Municipality comprising of the towns of Zastron, Rouxville and Smithfield.
- Naledi Local Municipality comprising of the towns of Dewetsdorp, Wepener and Vanstadensrus. The municipality previously formed part of the Motheo District that was disestablished following the 2011 local government elections and the establishment of the Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality.