THE FREE STATE AND THE FREEDOM STRUGGLE
The Free State played an important role in South Africa’s transition to democracy. Here are some facts you may not know:
1. Bloemfontein was the birthplace of the ANC.
A group of chiefs and people’s representatives gathered on 8th January 1912 at the Waaihoek Wesleyan Church in Bloemfontein. They founded the South African Native National Congress (SANNC), which became the African National Congress (ANC) in 1923.
2. Thomas Mapikela (a founding member of the SANNC) lived in the Bloemfontein townships of Waaihoek and Batho.
Mapikela owned two houses in Waaihoek, both of which were demolished when the township was destroyed to make way for a railway to the Cape. In the new township of Batho where blacks were relocated to, Mapikela was only allowed to build one house – so he built a double-storey one. The SANNC was formed there in 1912, and it was the ANC headquarters in the years that followed.
3. Bram Fischer, the Afrikaner lawyer who played a prominent role in the anti-apartheid struggle, was born and died in Bloemfontein.
Born to National Party parents, Bram joined the Communist Party of South Africa in 1942. He was part of the legal defence team in the Treason Trial of 1956–1961 (where Mandela and many other activists were acquitted); and he defended Nelson Mandela at the Rivonia Trial of 1963–1964. After several arrests for terrorism, Fisher was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1966. He died of cancer in 1975, while under house arrest at his brother’s home in Bloemfontein.
4. Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, former wife of Nelson Mandela, spent over a decade under arrest in the Free State.
From 1970-1975 she was imprisoned in Kroonstad for contravention of the Terrorism Act. Two years later, she was banished from Cape Town to the Free State, where she spent nine years under house arrest in Brandfort with her youngest daughter, Zindzi. Her small house had no running water, electricity or telephone and was burnt twice during her house arrest, which ended in 1985. Winnie’s home in Brandfort is currently being renovated as a museum.
STRUGGLE LANDMARKS IN MANGAUNG
• Nelson Mandela Statue – A 6.5m-high bronze statue on Naval Hill, Bloemfontein
• Free State Youth Martyrs’ Monument – To young people who died in the struggle against apartheid
• New Clare Township – The old residential section of the ‘coloured’ community before they were forcefully removed to Heidedal
• Mapikela House – The home of Thomas Mapikela; now a national monument
• Caleb Motshabi’s House – Birthplace of the Umkhonto we Sizwe veteran
• Batho Hall – A community hall that hosted many conferences of the ANC and Industrial & Commercial Workers’ Union
• African Methodist Episcopal Church – A 13-roomed church in Batho where ANC documents were hidden
• Heroes’ Acre – The burial place of heroes of the anti-apartheid struggle in the Phahameng area of Bloemfontein
• Bram Fischer’s house – the place where he was born, raised and got married.
• Me Moipone Mohlakoana’s House – The home of the former Free State President of the ANC Women’s League who was involved in the 1952 Defiance Campaign
• Digareteneng – Houses built in order to conceal the squatter settlements in Botshabelo during King George V’s 1952 visit to Bloemfontein
• Ramkraal prison – A prison where many liberation struggle compatriots were kept
• Paradise Hall – A gathering place for the defiance campaigns of 1951-1952
• St John’s Church – The church in Tsoai Street, Botshabelo, where Peter Sejake was killed by police while attending a rally in the 1980s