Ficksburg: History
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Ficksburg is a town situated at the foot of the 1,750 meter high Imperani Mountain in Free State province, South Africa . The town was founded by General Johan Fick in 1867 who won the territory in the Basotho Wars. He laid out many erven and plots that could be bought at a reasonable price. The town was later proclaimed a municipality in 1891. The last Governor-General of the Union of South Africa and the first State President of South Africa, Charles Robberts Swart was imprisoned here by the United Kingdom in 1914 and released one day before his scheduled execution.

  • ficksburg
  • basotho
  • erven

1. Profile

Ficksburg, after Bethlehem (the chief administrative town) is the second busiest and important town in the Eastern Free State region of the Free State province. It is an important agricultural region where crops like corn and mealies (maize) and asparagus are grown. The most important part of the annual crop of Ficksburg is the harvesting of the cherries on the numerous cherry farms surrounding the town. The cherries are harvested from October to December. Annually in November the Cherry Festival is held.[1] The festival stretches over 3 days and attracts up to 30,000 people. The festival presents family shows and activities like the herding of sheep, horse rides, camel rides, helicopter flips, steam train rides at Sandstone Estate, tours through town to see the sandstone building architecture which Ficksburg is well known for. There are also tours of the surrounding countryside, tours to the cherry and asparagus farms where people are shown everything about the industry, and airplane trips to the Katse Dam in Lesotho.

The town also has a wide variety of guesthouses and B&Bs and an exclusive 3-star hotel serves as accommodation for tourists visiting the town. The hotel has a French-style restaurant which serves a wide variety of cuisine and has an a la carte menu. Ficksburg also has commercial food outlets, a KFC and Wimpy and various restaurants or cafes to enjoy lunch or dinner at, like Die Blikkantien, situated at Die Blikplek, a fascinating Ficksburg venue.

Ficksburg is known as "The Gateway to the Mountain Kingdom Of Lesotho". Lesotho is an enclaved country in the central part of South Africa. From Ficksburg you can depart to the Katse Dam in Lesotho. This dam is important to South Africa, because it annually provides hundreds of millions of liters of water to the industrial and commercial hub of Gauteng Province. The dam is also a very scenic area and is situated 3,000 m (9,842 ft) high up in the Maluti Mountains of Lesotho. The dam is very popular for boating and fishing and is visited by thousands of tourists every year which have to gain access to Lesotho through Ficksburg.

The region is also known as the asparagus region of South Africa. Hundreds of tons of asparagus are harvested from September. Other kinds of fruit like peaches, apricots, cherries and apples are also grown in the region. Livestock is also an important industry in the region. There are numerous dairy farms in the countryside.

2. Population

Ficksburg is the seat of the Setsoto Local Municipality which includes the towns of Clocolan, Marquard and Senekal. The total population of the entire area is 125,751.[2]

3. Notable Residents

Many South African figures, like author Marie Warder, were born in Ficksburg.[3]

  • Julius Schuld (* 24 December 1927), Springbok Polo player 1951−54[4]
  • Roelf Meyer (Politician) schooled and matriculated in 1964 in Ficksburg.
  • Andries Tatane (* 22 February 1978 – † 13 April 2011).
  • Guy Tunmer, one-time Formula One driver.
  • Annelize van der Ryst - Matrone Netta Nortje in 7de Laan. Born in Ficksburg in 1948. Moved away at age 10.

4. Media

The Ficksburg News began publication as a community newspaper in the early 1900s and, after a hiatus in the 1970s, resumed in its present form in 1979.[5] The town also has a community radio station that broadcasts to the surrounding towns of Fouriesburg, Clocolan and Ladybrand. Sesoto FM broadcast 24 hours per day in Sesotho.[6]

In the 1930s and throughout the "war years" the editor of the Ficksburg News was Harold Lloyd, whose son, Michael, also a journalist, became well known as the editor of The Star, The Natal Mercury and the Diamond Fields Advertiser, among other leading newspapers. After suffering many tribulations as a prisoner-of-war, he became an Anglican priest and, at the time of his death, was the rector of St. Alban's Church in Kimberley. Both Lloyds were responsible for kindling in the well-known writer, Marie Warder, the desire to become a journalist.

A rarity for French tourists visiting Ficksburg is that it has a repeater for Radio France International (RFI) in the case of Ficksburg, because of the multitude of French missionaries in the neighboring country of Lesotho. Radiomonde Français International broadcasts 24 hours per day in French and English on 96.5 FM Stereo exclusively to Ficksburg. The BBC World Service radio station broadcasts from London 24 hours per day on 90.2 FM Stereo.

5. Coats of Arms

5.1. Municipal (1)

By 1931, the Ficksburg municipal council had assumed a pseudo-heraldic coat of arms.[7] The shield was divided in two, the upper half depicting the Roman goddess Ceres holding a torch above her head, in a landscape setting, and the lower half depicting a maize cob and three ears of wheat on a blue background. The motto was Virtus in arduis.

5.2. Municipal (2)

The council registered a new, and heraldically better, design with the Orange Free State Provincial Administration in June 1967[8] and at the Bureau of Heraldry in September 1969.[9]

The new arms were: Per chevron Gules and Or, in chief two garbs Or and in base a cross humette Vert; on a chief Or two sprigs of cherry fructed proper. In layman's terms, the shield displayed a golden chevron (bearing two sprigs of cherry) between two golden wheatsheaves on a red background (above) and a green cross on a gold background (below).

The crest was an arm holding a torch, issuing from a golden mural crown. The motto remained Virtus in arduis.

6. Ficksburg Cherry Festival

Ficksburg is known in South Africa as the Cherry Town and the Cherry Capital of the world.[10] The festival is arguably the oldest crop festival in South Africa.[11] The Ficksburg Cherry Festival happens during the third week of November annually.[12] It takes place in November every year.[10] The festival has been held for over 45 consecutive years and the festival continues to grow each year. The festival attracts almosta 30,000 visitors each year and plays an integral role in tourism as it creates employment and is the small town's largest marketing tool. The event has benefited the town in profits of over R15 million annually through food, accommodation, shopping, and entertainment.[13] The early traditional events of the festival included a street parade, a festive Cherry Ball and the crowning of the Cherry Queen, however, events have changed over time.[11]

Watercolor of Marasca Moscata variety of cherry (Prunus avium).

7. History of Cherry Farming in the Area

Harry Pickston contacted German missionaries in South Africa enquiring about growing cherries in the country for the first time. In the year 1905, a year after Harry Pickston had enquired about cherries, the first cherry trees were planted in South Africa on the farm 'Platkop' in the Clocolan district. The variants of the planted cherries included Giant Heidelfinger, Elton, Early Red, Early River, and Bing. This specific cluster of cherries is still grown in the area today. Some of the original cherry trees that were planted in 1905 can still be found on the farm. It is estimated that there are over 500 hectares of cherry trees in the Eastern Free State mainly in the Ficksburg, Clocolan and Fouriesburg area.

There are approximately 250 cherry trees per hectare which average a yield of 10 tons per hectare. The maraschino cherry, a sweet cherry, originated in Yugoslavia and northern Italy where traders added a liqueur to a cherry called the “Marasca.” [14]

The first Ficksburg Cherry Festival happened in 1968 and was started by the local Jaycees.[11]

8. Entertainment

The festival offers a variety of events that cater for different age groups. These events include children's entertainment, wine & chocolate pairing, stalls, various competitions, sporting activities like golf & soccer, workshops, exhibitions, product sales and all things associated with cherries. Popular local performers, that has performed at the festival include Jaunita du Plessis, Ezulka van Zyl, Glaskas, Romanz, Marimba Band, Refentse, The Soweto String Quartet and the Lipizzaner horses from Johannesburg. However, performers are announced annually. The Festival also offers special tours of the surrounding cherry and asparagus farms where visitors can see the harvesting and production process of cherries in the community. Visitors can also participate in cherry picking on local farms. A festival favorite includes the 'cherry mampoer' (South African 'Moonshine') competition. There are also events and activities surrounding the Ficksburg Cherry Festival that can be attended during November including the White Mischief Cruise which sails around the Meulspruit dam on the "White Mischief " with seating for 22 people.[15] There are also heritage steam train rides, and heritage tractors to see, at Sandstone Estates 14 kilometers away. Visitors can also see game in the Thaba Imperani Nature Reserve 8 km from Ficksburg on the Hammonia road. The game reserve borders the Meulspruit Dam.[11][12][16][17][18][19]

The content is sourced from:


  1. Official Cherry Festival website
  2. Setsoto Local Municipality
  3. Marie Warder Blog
  4. "Who's Who of Southern Africa 1986-87
  5. Ficksburg Tourism Forum
  6. "Free State Community Radio". 
  7. The arms were depicted on a cigarette card issued in 1931.
  8. Orange Free State Official Gazette 25 (9 June 1967).
  10. "Cherry Festival – Ficksburg the Cherry Capital of the World". 
  11. "Ficksburg Cherry Festival 2019". 
  12. "Cherry Festival Ficksburg | South Africa". 
  13. "". 
  14. "Welcome to the Cherry Festival website". 
  15. "White Mischief Boat Trips, South Africa". 
  16. "Accommodation in Ficksburg, Country Cottage Bed & Breakfast". 
  17. "Ficksburg Cherry Festival, Ficksburg Information |" (in en). 
  18. "November Picks: Ficksburg Cherry Festival" (in en). 
  19. "Cherry Festival / Event in Ficksburg, Free State". 
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