Knowing Your Area

Sasolburg , Free State, South Africa

Sasolburg is a large industrial town in the far north of the Free State province of South Africa. It is sub-divided into three areas: Sasolburg proper, Vaalpark ( a more affluent cluster of suburbs located about 5 km north of the Sasolburg CBD) and Zamdela ( a 'township' or area formerly reserved for Black people). Most White residents of Sasolburg speak Afrikaans as a first language, while most Black people speak Sesotho as a first language.

The town was established in 1954 in order to provide housing and facilities for Sasol employees. The initial installation (Sasol 1) was a pilot plant to refine oil from coal, due to the lack of petroleum reserves. The coal reserves of the country were and still are extensive. The political developments of the late 1960s and early 1970s (specifically the trade embargoes against apartheid) made the operation of the pilot plant a priority to the government. Plans were made for a production plant to be built in the Eastern Transvaal to produce approximately 25% of the national requirements. The new town of Secunda was built to house the construction and operations staff of what became known as SASOL 2 and SASOL 3 (Secunda CTL).

Sasolburg was the subject of an attack by Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK)in 1980. The attack proved to be largely ineffectual in terms of sabotaging the manufacturing processes of the Sasol plant. However the propaganda impact of the attack was significant.

Sasolburg is at a high altitude with a fairly dry climate and large seasonal temperature variation. It is situated near the Vaal river, which separates the Free State from what was formerly the province of Transvaal, and is not far from the Vaal dam where excellent windsurfing spots can be found. The Sasol corporation has sponsored extensive infrastructural developments in Sasolburg, such as an Olympic size swimming pool. World class athletics facilities and a large number of churches can also be found in Sasolburg. The Ettienne Rousseau Theatre plays host to a wide range of Afrikaans and other artists throughout the year. It is served by Sasolburg High School.

When the Free State Province was still known as Orange Free State, the motor vehicle registration prefix for Sasolburg was OIL.


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