Soutpan is a town in the Lejweleputswa District in the Free State province of South Africa. Afrikaans for ‘salt pan or depression’, the name is derived from a large geographical feature of that type, on the slopes of which the Florisbad archaeological site is situated. This natural spring is an important site for palaeontology and zoology, as it is the spot at which many fossils, such as the, now extinct, Pelorovis (giant buffalo) and the world renowned Florisbad skull, were discovered. The latter refers to a hominid skull that has been estimated to be some 260 000 years old, it is an important link in understanding the development of the human family tree.
Soutpan is also home to many cattle and game farms and is located 45 km north west of Bloemfontein. According to Census 2011, the community consisted of 65 households with an almost equal distribution of males and females. Since then the community has expanded significantly.
While for the occasional visitor and tourist, the area provides relaxing peace and quiet, for the average community member, Soutpan is an area where the struggle to survive and earn a livelihood is a constant challenge. For most, Nelson Mandela’s vision of ‘a better life for all’ is still a chimera. Particularly affected by this situation is the children of the Kagisano Combined School where the battle for a better tomorrow is an everyday reality.
Florisbad Quaternary Research Station is managed by the National Museum. Our staff decided to focus their 2019 contribution towards the realisation of the dream and vision of the late President Mandela on this district that is such an integral part of the Research done at the Museum. Staff members contributed 30 pairs of schools shoes to learners from Kagisano Combined School. The Shoes4Soutpan project further added critical extras such as school socks, and shoe brushes and polish to help learners to better cope with some of the discomfort of the harsh Free State winter.
The shoe handover took place on Friday 12 July, a few days after the start of the new school term. In addition, the museum delegation brought along cake to appropriately celebrate the birthday of one of the world’s greatest statesmen. The eager anticipation and grateful smiles of the recipients yet again indicated the value and significant impact that small gestures can have.