The Free State lies in the heart of South Africa, with the Kingdom of Lesotho situated in the hollow of its bean-like shape. It lies between the Vaal River in the north and the Orange River in the south. With a total area of 129 825 square kilometres, the Free State is roughly the size of Nicaragua. It's the country's third-largest province, only slightly bigger than the Western Cape, taking up 10.6% of South Africa's land area.
Its 2006 population was an estimated 2.9-million people. Two-thirds speak Sesotho, the language of neighbouring Lesotho, followed by Afrikaans and a sprinkling of isiXhosa.
Bloemfontein is the capital, and home to South Africa's Supreme Court of Appeal, the University of the Free State and the Central University of Technology
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.
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 large portion of the total silver produced in the country
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.
The current premier of the Free State is Ms Beatrice Marshoff
History of the Province
The Republic of the Orange Free State was an independent Boer State in southern Africa during the second half of the 19th century. Its borders were determined by the United Kingdom in 1948 when it...