- Free State
Formerly known as Witsieshoek to the European settlers, Phuthaditjhaba translated means ‘the meeting place of nations’.
Phuthaditjhaba has a scenically outstanding location between the Drakensberg and Maluti Mountain ranges, close to the Golden Gate National Park. The San called the region Qwa’Qwa, meaning ‘whiter than white’ because of the frequent snow on the Drakensberg mountain peaks surrounding the town.
During the apartheid era the area was then turned into a bantustan or homeland of Qwa’Qwa with Phuthaditjhaba as the capital. The bantustan system was scrapped when apartheid ended in 1994.
A road leads up the glen and the scenery is stunning. In 1972 the Bantu Development Corporation built a holiday resort high on the slopes of the Drakensberg close to Sentinel Peak. The resort is at an altitude of 2680m and from it a bridle path leads to climbing routes to the tope of the Sentinel and to a series of chain-aided ascents to the top of Mont-aux-Sources.
The inhabitants mostly commute to towns outside the state such as Harrismith and Bethlehem for employment and Phuthaditjhaba has since become a vibrant big town in the Eastern Free State with inter alia a well functioning regional hospital.
In the 1830's a group of Kgolokwa tribespeople under a chief named Whêtse fled for sanctuary from Zulu raiding bands into a rugged glen where the elands River, after tumbling headlong off the summit of Mont-aux-Sources, finds a complex way through the sandstone foothills of the Maluti Mountains. In this wild glen, after the Zulu raids had stopped Whêtse, or Witsie, and his men set themselves up as cattle rustlers. They were so proficient that in 1856 a commando was mustered by the farmers of the Orange Free State to flush them out.
Whêtse and his men retreated to a cave where the commando besieged them. The rustlers were defeated but Whêtse escaped through a secret tunnel and fled deep into the mountains of Lesotho. The government of the Free State kept careful control of the glen which from that time was known as Witsieshoek.
Friendly Kwena and Tlokwa tribespeople were settled in the area and in 1874 a mission station of the Dutch Reformed Church was established here.
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