Ladybrand, Free State - Tucked away in a quiet corner of the eastern Free State, close to the Lesotho border, we have a pilgrimage to rival that to Our Lady in Lourdes, France.
Every year, thousands of people head to the little settlement of Mooderpoort, outside Ladybrand in the Free State, to pay homage to, and ask for help from the charismatic Basotho prophetess Mantsopa.
They light candles at her grave, at the cave where she conducted her healing sessions and they take water – which is said to have healing properties – from the spring Mantsopa drew water.
Mantsopa was unusual in that she lived in three centuries, being born in about 1975 and dying in 1906 in the Mooderpoort area. She became known as someone for whom was given the gift of prophesy and that is said to have annoyed the king of the Basotho, Moshoeshoe, who banished her from his Kingdom, perhaps fearing her influence.
After she fled the wrath of Moshoeshoe, Mantsopa settled in the area of a mission set up by the Anglican Church in 1865 as a base for missionary work in the Free State and in neighbouring Lesotho.
The Anglicans at St Augustine’s Missions baptised her with the Christian name Anna in about 1871 but, interestingly, she combined Christianity with her spiritual connections with the ancestors and her healing.
Many were the people who would come to be healed by her. Even today, visitors slaughter goats and light candles, often asking for help with family or job problems.
On a makeshift altar in the cave where she did her healing are the letters left for her by her modern day supplicants. Every now and again, the caretakers of the site remove the letters and destroy them…otherwise they would pile up.
The areas where Mantsopa lived around St Augustines are known as the Modderpoort Sacred Sites and there is hope that one day they will be declared a World Heritage. The sites include her grave, which is situated alongside the graves of former priests and brothers, as well as members of the Anglican community.
The mission still runs, but today, some of its facilities have been rented out to a private company as a guest house.