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One of the older town of the Free State. It was established by a Voortrekker, Jacobus van Zyl. He and his family had come from Natal after Piet Retief had been murdered. A few attempts of establishing a settlement were made which finally led to 47 stands being sold in 1866. It was declared a town in 1875 and became a municipality in 1884. The name Brandfort is generally assumed to be of the president at the time. There is a alternative story in that it was derived from a Voortrekker fort at Keeromkoppie which was burned during an attack by the Basutus. It is to be noted that the coat of arms of the town the Bloemfontein statue of Pres.Brand appears as well as the old fort. The name has actually changed to Winnie Mandela, the wife of Nelson Mandela. More on that name change further down. The geo-position is 28.7021°S, 26.4614°E and 1392m.

NG church

Brandfort NG church.jpgBrandfort NG church 02.jpgThere are two churches, a old one and a newer one. Naturally I pay attention to the old church, which was constructed in 1885. When the town was declared in 1875 it already had a small church of very rudimentary construction. The foundation stone to the new church was laid by President JH Brand in 1883, construction was completed in 1885. The architect was Richard Wocke, he was from Germany and the first architect residing in the Free State. He was the architect and builder of many of the governement buildings in Bloemfontein as well as a number of churches in the Free State.
The building was extended to accommodate 1100 worshippers in 1907.
Because of increasing numbers the congregation was split in 1951 into Moeder Kerk and Brandfort Oos. A new church was built by Brandfort Oos in 1953. It is of a more modern style and thus not of much interest to me.

Railway station

Brandfort railway station.jpgBrandfort railway station B.jpgThe state of the railway station is typical of the state of the South African Railway in general. A fairly large station with a number of branches of the goods section, all in disuse. Trains are still coming through, but none stop here.
The railway line between Bloemfontein and Vereeniging was opened on 7 May 1892, with Brandfort being on that line.

Winnie Mandela house

Brandfort NG church.jpgWinnie Mandela, the wife of Nelson Mandela at the time and an anti-apartheid activist was banished to live in Brandfort in 1977, with severe restrictions on how many people and who could visit her and could only leave the district with permission from the magistrate.
Brandfort Winnie Mandela house inside.jpgDuring her time in Brandfort she became involved with community work. With the help of Dr Abu Baker Asvat she set up a clinic next to her house. In the picture to the right of her house, yes, it is a ruin. It was burned in 1986 at the instigation of the security police. It is fairly certain that this is fact, a security police man admitted to this in front of the Truth and Reconciliation commission.
Her house has recently been refurbished and is now a museum.

Name change

The official name of the town was changed to Winnie Mandela in 2021. From newspaper report at the time the name change did not meet with the approval of the general public, black and white. Wherever the name appeared it was defaced and had graffiti drawn over it.
During our visit I only saw one sign with the new name, also the road signs point to Brandfort. I noticed that our guide at the Mandela house would talk about Brandfort rather than using the new name. Reading through her biography in Wikipedia (click the hyper link above), she was not a nice person, thus should not have anything named after her. I think the protest is understandable. I will only use the name Brandfort.


Brandfort British cemetery.jpgBrandfort Jewish cemetery.jpgThe cemetery is mostly overgrown, the only section that is being looked after is the Jewish section (picture on the right). There are a number of British war graves all in one section surrounded by a low fence. Fortunately I can report that a team from 'working for fire' started cleaning up in the cemetery.
There is also the cemetery of the concentration camp nearby, but that one is on private property and not accessible to the public.

Ref 1.: Standard Encyclopedia of Southern Africa, Nasou Limited, 1974
Ref 2.: Wikipedia

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