Brandfort, meaning "burning fort" in Afrikaans, is a mixed farming community that produces wool, maize, cattle and sheep. Interestingly Vincent Van Gogh’s brother, Cornelius Van Gogh, came to South Africa and helped with the building of the railway during the Anglo Boer War. He was captured and imprisoned by British soldiers, eventually dying in a Brandfort hospital. He was buried in town in an unmarked grave.
Winnie Mandela (ex-wife of struggle icon, Nelson mandela) spent nine years in exile in the town of Brandfort during Apartheid and the house in which she lived can be visited.
- Winnie Madikizela-Mandela's home
- Dwyersdorp concentration camp
- Florisbad archeological site
- The Voortrekker Monument
The town was founded on the farm Keerom, ‘turn around’ in English, by the Voortrekker elder Jacobus van Zijl. In 1866 he started building a church on his farm and plots of land began to be sold, and bought that same year.
There are two theories from which the town’s name may be derived, the first being that President of the Orange Free State at the time, President Brand, visited the town and shortly afterwards it was named after him. The second being a reference to the Voortrekker fortification that was found on Keerom but was burnt down during one of the battles between locals and the Basotho people. The town’s coat of arms represents both versions of the story. It is also where two of the country’s concentration camps and cemeteries are found.
The British sent both Boer woman and children to one - Dwyersdorp - and black people to Nooitgedacht.
The Voortrekker Monument is situated at the Dutch Reformed Church to commemorate and honour the Voortrekkers and their Great Trek. The names of the early settlers are inscribed into a wall that stands in front of the church.
The Winnie Madikizela-Mandela Museum illustrates the life of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela who spent 9 years in exile in Majwemasoeu during Apartheid. She was still married to Nelson Mandela during this time although he was in prison and she was in exile. She was brought to Brandfort in the hopes of keeping her quiet because her home language was Xhosa but in Brandfort the local language was Sesotho. She arrived in May 1977 and immediately got to work. Despite the language barrier, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela got involved, with the focus of women’s empowerment. Her house was bombed twice during this time.
CR Swart was the first State President of the Republic of South Africa. He was in office from 1961-1967. The house in which he lived has been restored and is now national monument.
Dwyersdorp is the site of the concentration camp established during the Anglo Boer War by the British. This concentration camp is where 15 500 women and children died, mostly from disease, namely typhoid, dysentery and measles. They were buried in the cemetery close by and the names of the deceased have been inscribed on a monument. Fifty Boer soldiers were also buried here. It was named after captain Dwyer, an Irish soldier who showed sympathy towards the Boer women and children.