Profile of the Municipality

Spatial description

The Dihlabeng Local Municipality is situated within the regional boundaries of the Thabo Mofutsanyane District Municipality. The geographical area of the municipality is 7550.4910 square kilometres. The major towns that form part of Dihlabeng are Bethlehem, Clarens, Fouriesburg, Paul Roux and Rosendal.


According to the 2007 Community Survey, a total number of 108 449 persons live in the Dihlabeng Municipality. The total number of persons counted in the 2001 Census was128 929.

Municipal biodiversity summary

The municipality covers an area of 473898.3ha of which 62.9% has remained natural habitat. There is one formal land-based protected area in the municipality, namely the Golden Gate Highlands National Park. There are no RAMSAR sites in the municipality. There is one biome in the Dihlabeng Municipality, namely Grassland. Seven vegetation types cover 473898.3ha of the municipality. There are two vulnerable ecosystems, covering 67101.9ha of the municipal area. There are the Eastern Free State Clay Grassland and the Eastern Temperate Freshwater Wetlands. The freshwater ecosystems in the municipality are characterised by four water management areas. Twelve rivers run through the municipality. Wetlands cover 1.6% of the Dihlabeng Municipality.



Bethlehem is situated on the N5 Highway in the Free State. It is the commercial centre and the principal town of the Dihlabeng Municipality. Positioned in a fertile valley, agricultural farming plays an important role here and as Bethlehem and surrounds produces over 65% of the countries wheat crop, this area has become the centre for wheat research in South Africa.

The town was founded in 1864 on the farm Pretoriuskloof, is strategically situated in the heart of the picturesque north-eastern Free State. Its name, which in Hebrew means “house of bread”, is most appropriate as it relates to the fertile agricultural soil so distinctive of the area which produces 65% of the country’s wheat crop. The town originally developed as a service centre. Growth was stimulated by the strategic location of the area that presently serves as a central regional centre.


In the heart of the picturesque and mountainous Eastern Free State, the quaint town of Clarens is found nestling between the Rooiberge and Mount Horeb. The environment casts a captivating – almost mystical – enchantment and while summer offers mild temperatures, winters do become very cold. According to Basotho legend, the mountain Setlofe (known as Mount Horeb), is a shy maiden. She was betroathed to the warrior mountain, Matsa (Rhebokkop), who jilted her for another. This broke Setlofe’s heart and even now, when she thinks about it, she draws her veil around her head and weeps. Thus when Setlofe is shrouded in cloud, it will soon rain in Clarens! Today locals say that when the hadidas fly towards Mount Horeb in the evening, it will rain the following day.

In 1910 the farm Leliehoek (near the Kloof) was purchased from Mr. Hermanus Steyn, and in 1911 Mr. Piet de Villiers sold his farm Naauwpoort (situated near the Titanic) to a company wanting to establish a village here in the mountains. These two farms were divided into erven and sold for the sum of fifty pounds each. In 1912 a commission was appointed to finalize negotiations, and a decision was made to name the village Clarens in honour of President Paul Kruger’s influence in the area. Clarens is a mere 20km from the Golden Gate National Park. The community is situated 10km from the Lesotho border.


Fouriesburg is situated in the Brandwater Basin. The basin is formed by the Witteberge in the west and north and the Rooiberge in the east. The town is situated on the R26-route and predominantly has the function of a small service centre to the surrounding agricultural communities. This primary function is increasingly supported by the tourism industry. Fouriesburg was originally a farm called Groenfontein, belonging to Rooi Stoffel Fourie. The town was proclaimed in 1892, deriving its name from the fact that so many Fouries lived in the area.

Fouriesburg was proclaimed the capital of the Free State during the Anglo-Boer War, after the government moved from Bloemfontein and Bethlehem was occupied by Lord Roberts. The proclaimed printed on a field press in Snymanshoek, was never rescinded. Surrender Hill is a memorial to fallen British soldiers and Boers. Four thousand Boers surrendered here and the majority was sent to India as prisoners of war.

Paul Roux

Paul Roux is situated in an area of agricultural significance and mainly provides services in this regard to the rural surrounding areas. The village of Paul Roux was situated on the stage coach route between Harrismith and Winburg. In 1911, the newly formed community was divided about the name of the new town. One group wanted to name the town, Du Plessisville, after a respected citizen, while the other group wanted to name the town after their minister, Paul Roux. Paul Roux was the minister of the Dutch Reformed Church in Senekal. Because the town had no church, the people went to the church in Senekal to worship. The people decided to get a big piece of dolomite (ironstone). On the one side they wrote the initials PR and on the other side the initials DPV. One of the men, Mr. Koos Smit, was asked to throw the stone as far as possible – the side on which the stone lands will indicate what the name of the town would be. The town was called Paul Roux after the stone had fallen with the Initials PR on top.


The Eastern Free State was first occupied by indigenous San and Koi people who lived in harmony with the multitude of game which populated the vast grass plains. Blacks first arrived in the early 1800’s as refugees from the great warlords Chaka, Dingaan and Mtsilikatse, according to the explorer Dr. Andrew Smith who traveled through this region prior to the Great Trek. They mainly lived in the Witteberge mountains, south of Bethlehem.

Hunters and adventurers probably arrived in the 1820’s but only came in large quantities during the great trek, inabout July 1837. The region was occupied by Trekkers under Andries Hendrik Potgieter. After the arrival of Piet Retief in 1837 it was decided at a contentious public meeting to make Natal the destination of the Trek and to establish a Boer Republic there. Thereafter the Bethlehem region was, for a number of years, mainly a through station. Rosendal was declared a municipality in 1914. The widow of Phillip Botha was entitled to use the farm on which the town was founded and it was her job to choose a name for the town. She and her little boy came up with two suggestions and the town was named Rosendal. Rosendal means rose valley.