A recent invitation to spend a weekend in the Western Free State provided an opportunity to visit the cemetery at the small town of Bultfontein. Situated approximately 90 kilometres north of Bloemfontein, I had passed through this town at least fifteen years ago, when I cursorily traipsed the cemetery. This time I undertook to explore it in more detail.
At the time of writing, the coronavirus Covid-19 is still disrupting life in South Africa. In this article we recall an earlier pandemic, the so-called ‘Spanish’ Flu that devastated the world of our great-grandparents a century ago. It had a major impact in South Africa and disrupted the building of Hartbeespoort Dam.
Contrary to popular belief, the ‘Spanish’ influenza pandemic of 1918 (which is thought to have caused as many as 50 million deaths globally) did not originate in Spain. Historians and epidemiologists are uncertain about the origins of the disease, which killed more people than had perished in the First World War, which was in its final phase when the pandemic struck. Various hypotheses have been advanced to explain the origins and spread of the 1918 flu. For example, it has been posited that the disease originated in military camps in France, the United Kingdom o