At the heart of the Free State Province lies the artistic city of Mangaung/ Bloemfontein which is home to some of the country's most fanatical football supporters. The city's open spaces reflect the openness of its people - friendly, warm and quietly dignified. The city's citizens are a unique blend of rural tranquility and vibrant city life.
Mangaung/Bloemfontein is the judicial capital of South Africa and the provincial capital of the Free State Province.
The Appeal Court, which is the highest court in South Africa, is also found in the city. Mangaung literally means "Place of the Cheetahs" in SeSotho, which is one of South Africa's 11 official languages. On the other hand, Bloemfontein literally means 'fountain of flowers' in Dutch
The regal stinkwood panelled courtroom was completed in 1929. The city hall is a magnificent sandstone building built by Sir Gordon Leith and the city has an inner game reserve. The Free State is bordered by four of South Africa's nine provinces and the country of Lesotho. The city has a wealth of culture and history, reflected by its rich architectural heritage, numerous museums and monuments.
The Golden Gate National Park in the eastern Free State has sandstone cliffs, which illuminate in gold hues when the sun strikes the exposed cliffs. The Vredefort Dome is the oldest impact crater in the world, dating back 2,023 million years and the expansive Gariep Dam is a local favourite among the landlocked people of the Free State and Gauteng.
Chief Yoruka and the Barolong tribe settled in the area around Thaba Nchu in the early 1830s. In the late 1800s the Free State became home to Chief Moshoeshoe and the Basotho tribe. The area became a safe haven for tribes fleeing King of the Zulu's, Shaka Zulu.
The Mangaung Local Municipality was formed at the end of 2000 by amalgamating the transitional local councils of Bloemfontein, Botshabelo, Thaba Nchu with two rural councils. It is the sixth largest city in South Africa. Although amalgamated under one city authority in 2000, Bloemfontein was initially founded by Dutch and English settlers in mid-1800s. Bloemfontein is rumoured to have been named after an abundance of roses which grew around a fountain on a farm owned by a Dutch settler (Voortrekker), Johannes Nicolaas Brit.
In South Africa, Bloemfontein is known as a nest to some of the country's most decorated and colourful football supporters known for their sheer enthusiasm and vociferous singing during games. Local outfit, Bloemfontein Celtic are the most popular football side from the city with their famous clan of supporters, known as Siwelele. The team's playing kit is very similar to that of Scottish side, Celtic, with green and white horizontal stripes.
Free State Stars is another professional outfit from Free State. Football in Bloemfontein, was first played in 1891, when the territory was an independent Boer republic, known as the 'Oranje Free Staat'. Famous clubs like Aberdeen, Dundee United (both Scotland), Newcastle United (England), Ajax Amsterdam (Netherlands) and Eintracht Frankfurt (Germany) played tour matches in the territory. Bloemfontein City played briefly as the first professional club of the city.