Ten things about Mangaung
- Mangaung is the capital of the Free State province. What is now the province was an independent Boer republic, the Orange Free State, from 1854 to 1902.
- The name means “Place of Leopards” or “Place of Cheetahs” in Sesotho.
- Bloemfontein is the home of the Cheetahs rugby team.
- The African National Congress was founded (as the South African Native National African Congress) in Bloemfontein in 1912.
- The National Party, which governed South Africa from 1948 to 1994, was founded in Bloemfontein in 1915 by Afrikaners disaffected with the governing South African Party of General Louis Botha.
- The ANC will hold its elective conference there from December 16.
The ANC also held its 44th national congress there in 1955.
ANC president Dr AB Xuma delivered a stern lecture warning of the dangers of “certain tendencies” in the party, including “splits, cracks, antagonisms and struggle for office for personal reasons”.
The ANC, he said, “seems to fear ... criticisms constructive and otherwise from its following and others. People who voice their reasonable and considered views on Congress policy and/or no policy ... are referred to as ‘sellers-out’ or ‘agents’ or ‘friends of the government’ instead of being shown where they are wrong ... Many who dare to criticise the hierarchy have been expelled ...”
- Bloemfontein was officially founded by a British soldier, Major Henry Douglas Warden, in 1846, in the form of a fort that would serve as an outpost of the Cape Colony. It retained the name of the farm Warden had bought from its Afrikaner owner. A bronze bust of Warden graces the Bloemfontein-Mangaung History Hall at the National Museum there.
- In 1899, Bloemfontein was the site of a meeting between British imperial forces and representatives of the Zuid-Afrikaanse Republiek (ZAR; also known as the Transvaal Republic), in an attempt to forestall the outbreak of war between Britain and the Boers. It failed. British High Commissioner Lord Alfred Milner demanded of the republic’s President Paul Kruger that uitlanders (white foreigners) in the territory be given the vote at once, meetings of the Volksraad or parliament be conducted in English as well as Dutch and all its laws be confirmed by the British Parliament. Kruger refused on the grounds that this was an unacceptable breach of the republic’s sovereignty and Milner walked out. War was declared on October 11 1899.
- True to its Dutch name, Bloemfontein (“flower fountain”) hosts the annual Rose Festival.