Orange Free State

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Orange Free State,

former province, South Africa: see Free StateFree State,
formerly Orange Free State, province (2011 pop. 2,745,590), 50,126 sq mi (129,825 sq km), E central South Africa. It was renamed Free State shortly after the 1994 post-apartheid constitution went into effect.
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Orange Free State

 

a province of the Republic of South Africa. Area, 129,200 sq km. Population, 1,651,600 (1970 estimate), including 1,320,000 Bantu, 295,000 persons of European descent, and 36,000 mulattoes. The African population is concentrated in reservations (the so-called bantustans), which occupy less than 1 percent of the province’s land area. Nonwhites are subjected to racial discrimination. Bloemfontein is the provincial capital.

The Orange Free State is situated on an interior plateau 1,200 to 1,800 m high, which rises in the east to 2,300 m in the Drakensberg Mountains. The climate is subtropical, continental, and arid. From east to west the annual precipitation diminishes from 900 to 250 mm. There is a large river, the Orange, with its tributaries the Vaal and the Caledon. A dam, reservoir, and hydroelectric power plant were built in 1972 on the Orange River at Norvalspont. The plateau supports primarily a steppe and shrub vegetation, growing on fertile cinnamon-colored and gray soils; the southwest is shrub semidesert.

More than 60 percent of the population is engaged in agriculture, of which animal husbandry is the most important branch. Livestock, which numbered about 9 million sheep, 2 million head of cattle, and more than 200,000 horses in 1968, is concentrated primarily on large stock farms. The main crops are maize and wheat. Grown chiefly in the northwest, maize from the Orange Free State supplies more than one-third of the total harvested in the Republic of South Africa. Wheat from the Caledon River valley amounts to more than one-fourth of the national output.

The goldfields at Odendaalsrus, Allanridge, and Welkom, which were developed after World War II, account for more than one-third of the republic’s gold output. A valuable byproduct is the uranium that is extracted from the gold tailings and ores. Diamonds are mined at Koffiefontein and Jagersfontein, and low-grade coal, extracted south of Vereeniging, is processed into synthetic fuel at Sasolburg.

The Orange Free State has the chemical and pharmaceutical industries, and its machine-building enterprises handle rolling-stock repairs, motor-vehicle assembly, and cable manufacturing. Light industry includes the production of leather and footwear, textiles, and clothing. There is also a food-processing industry. Bloemfontein and Welkom are the main industrial centers. Out of a total of 2,700 km of railroads, 500 km were electric-powered as of 1968.

G. M. MOISEEVA

The Orange Free State was originally inhabited by Basuto tribes. The Afrikaners (Boers), who first arrived in the 1830’s, brutally exploited the indigenous population. In March 1854 the Boers created the republic of the Orange Free State, with citizenship restricted to persons of European origin. During the Boer War (1899–1902) the Orange Free State was allied with the Transvaal against Great Britain. As a result of the war, the Orange Free State was annexed by the British, who administered it as the Orange River Colony. In 1907 the colony was granted self-government. When the Union of South Africa was formed in 1910 (Republic of South Africa since 1961), the Orange Free State joined as one of the union’s four provinces.

Orange Free State

a former province of central South Africa, between the Orange and Vaal rivers: settled by Boers in 1836 after the Great Trek; annexed by Britain in 1848; became a province of South Africa in 1910; replaced in 1994 by the new province of Free State; economy based on agriculture and mineral resources (esp gold and uranium). Capital: Bloemfontein