It's name being symbolic of royalty (“Kroon” is Dutch for crown), Kroonstad has very humble beginnings. It was named after Voorktrekker Sarel Cilliers' horse, who drowned in a stream here. (Charl Arnoldus Cilliers was a Voortrekker leader and a preacher. With Andries Pretorius, he led the Boers to a huge victory over the Zulus at the Battle of Blood River in 1838.)
The Vaal River runs through the City of Kroonstad, with its banks of willows and poplar trees, laid out in parks.
The main industry of Kroonstad is agriculture. It is the centre of a rich agricultural district, producing maize, wheat, dairy and meat products and wool. Kroonstad is also a busy transportation centre with Marshalling Yards, Grain Elevators, and engineering works. It is the Northern educational focus of the Province, with vocational and trade Schools. It is within 64 km of the Free State goldfields, and there are coal and diamond Mines to the North. In the 2001 Census; there was a Population of 23,994 people.
In 1975, Winnie Mandela was incarcerated here at the Kroonstad Prison. In February 1975, our founding President, the late Nelson Mandela, wrote her a letter where he was encouraging her not to let this Prison break her down!
At the official renaming ceremony of the Kroonstad Correctional Centre, to the 'Bizzah Makhate Correctional Centre". (This name pays tribute to the late Comrade; Wilfred Sefularo ‘Bizzah’ Makhate who was incarcerated at this facility in the eighties!) Minister Sibusiso Joel "S'bu" Ndebele (born 17 October 1948), led this ceremony. He was the Minister of Correctional Services, serving from 2012 to 2014. He has been on the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the African National Congress (ANC) since 1997, and was the Provincial Chair of the ANC from 1998 to 2008. Minister Ndebele said: “The colonial powers used incarceration as a way of subjugating the indigenous populations. Oliver Tambo, in his December 1964 Foreword to President Nelson Mandela’s book “No Easy Walk to Freedom,” writes about South Africa’s high prison population and notes: ‘South African apartheid laws turn innumerable innocent people into ‘criminals’. Apartheid stirs hatred and frustration among people...every case in court, every visit to the prisons to interview clients, reminded us [me & Mandela] of the humiliation and suffering burning into our people.’