From: "Rex Brown" <email@example.com>
To: "Swazi-Net"Subject: National Parks Take on a New Direction
Date: Wed, 27 May 1998 22:06:54 +0200
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
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
Another major development made possible by the ending of apartheid is
the creation of transfrontier conservation areas (TFCAs) or "peace
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.