#TourismForAll: Famous Free Staters

By Marchelle Abrahams Time of article published Sep 20, 2016

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Marchelle Abrahams


Bloemfontein - Contrary to what out-of-towners may say, the Free State is not just the dust bowl of the SA interior.

Some famous names have been born and bred in this province... The name J.R.R. Tolkien ring a bell?

In celebration of this vast and glorious place, we’ve gone in search of famous Free Staters that you may not even have known hail from this part of SA.


Wayde van Niekerk

Not exactly a Free State original, SA’s Olympic golden boy was actually born in Cape Town. But he currently resides at the University of the Free State where he is studying marketing.


Zola Budd

Born May 26, 1966 in Bloemfontein, Zola was SA’s middle-distance and long-distance darling - at the age of 17 she broke the women's 5 000m world record. She also represented the country in the 1992 Olympic Games.


Thomas Mtobi Mapikela (1869-1945)

Originally from the Cape, Mapikela came to Bloemfontein in 1892. His claim to fame? He was the original builder and founder of ANC House, which ultimately became the provincial ANC headquarters during the Struggle.


Hansie Cronje

Tainted by a match-fixing scandal before his death in 2002, Hansie is still known as one of SA’s cricketing greats.


JRR Tolkien

Many say the inspiration for Tolkien’s Lord Of The Rings trilogy comes from his love of the Free State. Born in 1892 as John Ronald Reuel Tolkien in Bloemfontein, he later moved to the UK where he died in 1973.


Leon Schuster

Another famous Bloemfonteiner, Schuster always has the audience in stitches with his local comedic pranks. But he’s not just a funny face - he has a BA degree behind him - compliments of the University of the Orange Free State.


Steve Hofmeyr

Hofmeyr was first given a taste of the spotlight in 1980s Afrikaans drama Agter Elke Man. Just like Wayde, he wasn’t born in the Free State, but he studied drama at the famous Grey’s College in Bloem. Hence, this makes him an honorary Free Stater.


Maretha Maartens

One of SA’s most well-known authors, Maartens has so far written over 90 books. Her controversial novel ’n Pot Vol Winter was awarded the Andrew Murray Award in 1989.


Rolene Strauss

Crowned Miss SA in 2014 and Miss World that same year, Rolene is a jewel in the Free State’s crown. Born in Bloem in 1992, she studied medicine at the University of the Free State.


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