QwaQwa means whiter than white, from the Sesotho language, referring to the many sandstone hills of the Drakensberg mountains in which the area is situated. In Afrikaans it was known as Witsieshoek, after the name of a farm.
Two clans lived in the region, the Bakoena and the Batlokoa. In 1969, according to Franc M.A. Van Diest at, they were united and the area was named KwaKwa. In the same year, Van Diest said, the name was changed to QwaQwa to avoid an ethnic identification.
On November 1, 1974 QwaQwa was granted "self government". On April 27, 1994 it was reunited with South Africa, together with the nine other homelands. The Chief Minister of QwaQwa throughout its period of self government was Kenneth Mopeli. It is now part of the Free State province.