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Message-ID: <003101bd89ab$195ed460$2e5016c4@ai35.iafrica.sz>
From: "Rex Brown" <rbrown@ecs.co.sz>
To: "Swazi-Net"Subject: National Parks Take on a New Direction
Date: Wed, 27 May 1998 22:06:54 +0200
Sender: owner-swazi-net@list.pitt.edu

National Parks Take on a New Direction

Inter Press Service
27 May 1998

JOHANNESBURG, May 22 (AIA/GIN) -- March 1998 saw the 100th anniversary of the founding of South Africa's largest and most popular park, the Kruger National Park.

In 1898 President Paul Kruger, the president of one of the Boer republics, the Transvaal, decided to set aside an area of land for conservation. Today, the Kruger National Park is 19,000 square kilometers and has more species of ungulates than any other protected area on the globe.

In 1997 it had close to 900,000 visitors. Besides the Kruger Park there are another 17 national parks in South Africa. All of these parks are controlled by South African National Parks Board.

Historically, the parks have been associated with some of the most savage features of white domination. In order to increase the size of the parks some communities were forcibly moved.

For example, in 1969, the 5,000 strong Makuleke community in northern Kruger was removed at gunpoint from 23,000 hectares of land.

David Fig of the Parks Board, feels that "the organization is taking very seriously the question of restoring people who were removed to their ancestral land. The parks are making new partnerships with affected communities to ensure that they have rights to the land as well as income generating opportunities from conservation and tourism."

During the apartheid era the parks were extensions of the conservative white bureaucracy. Almost all the members of the governing board of the national parks were white males prominent in the ruling party and its secret policy-making organization, the Broederbond.

Parks staff were very poorly housed and paid, black visitors were only allowed into the park in the early 1980s, all the management was white and little innovation was visible. Post 1994 has seen significant shifts in the composition of the National Parks's Board and the direction the parks have taken.

The new Parks Board, selected in 1995 through a process of consultation with the public, is made up of 18 members of whom five are black and four are women. The chairperson is currently Vusi Khanyile, who is also the chairperson of Thebe Investments, one of South Africa's largest black owned companies.

The new board is determined to change the nature of South Africa's parks. Jacklyn Cock, a prominent sociologist and member of the Parks Board, says that the "new board is committed to an inclusive, non-racial policy aimed at promoting the parks as part of the national heritage of all South Africans." Furthermore, she says the board is "committed to ending all forms of racial and gender discrimination; to human resource development and the elimination of all exploitative labor practices." It is also determined to compensate communities dispossessed of their land through the establishment of the Kruger Park.

In 1998 the first black director of the Kruger National Park, David Mabunda, was appointed. Mabunda appears determined to make changes. His priorities are to improve the housing of black workers and change the composition of senior management.

"There are no women in senior management and only one black person. This cannot continue," he says. He is also extremely concerned about the small number of black visitors to the Park and has described the Kruger National Park as a "holiday camp for a few privileged whites."

Another major development made possible by the ending of apartheid is the creation of transfrontier conservation areas (TFCAs) or "peace parks."

The idea is to link up game parks that are in different countries but adjoin one another and through inter-state agreements to develop common conservation programs and eco-tourism. A Peace Parks Foundation has been set up and in southern African, seven potential peace parks have been identified involving the countries of Zimbabwe, Namibia, South Africa, Mozambique, Botswana, Swaziland and Lesotho.

The biggest peace park envisaged is the amalgamation of the Kruger/Banhine-Zinave/Gonarezhou parks in South Africa, Mozambique and Zimbabwe respectively. This would create a conservation area totalling 95,712 square kilometers.

A recent study by the Development Bank of South Africa found that within this region utilizing the land for ecotourism and hunting would yield five times more than cattle or crop farming.

A major problem with peace parks coming to fruition revolves around land-use. In South Africa, the parks are purely conservation areas while in some places in southern Africa people live and farm the land. For peace parks to become a reality the report says local communities would have to be adequately compensated for any loss of land and persuaded that peace parks are beneficial.

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