Musina: South Africans need to understand the value of conservation if they are to take pride in their national parks, says Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs Edna Molewa.
Molewa was addressing the official opening of the Mapungubwe Interpretation Centre and the launch of SanParks Week at the Mapungubwe National Park outside Musina on Monday.
“We can only have all South Africans taking pride in our parks when they start understanding the value of conservation,” she said.
The minister said national parks help people connect with their roots. She said national parks preserve cultures, values and knowledge systems through generations.
“With this National Parks Week, we want to instil a sense of pride in South Africa’s natural and cultural heritage, specifically that which is protected through the Protected Areas System,” she said.
The minister said Mapungubwe, which is a World Heritage Site, is internationally famous for the iconic statue of a small golden Rhino which was found buried with the king at the Mapungubwe hilltop citadel, which predates Great Zimbabwe.
She noted the controversy surrounding impending coal mining activities at the Vele colliery near Mapungubwe’s entrance.
“Conflict between development and conservation become very stark in areas like Mapungubwe which are not only rich in biodiversity and heritage but are also home to a variety of minerals.
“The department and the South African government in general has worked very hard in the last few years to ensure that as a developmental state we pursue our development in a sustainable manner,” she said. She said her department recently hosted an expert meeting on the subject of World Heritage and Mining bringing together development with conservation.
Molewa said some crucial recommendations are expected to be adopted later this month as an African position by those attending the African Dialogue on “Living with Heritage” being hosted by the South African government through the Department of Arts and Culture.
She took time to point out that the Mapungubwe Interpretation Centre won a prestigious World Building of the Year award in 2009.
“We should all pay tribute to the South African talent that designed the building and the many workers who built this masterpiece,” she said.
She said more than 200 000 tiles were manufactured on site using unskilled labour and thus empowering the workers with skills they could use when the project ended.
“About 160 people were employed for 27 months during the construction of the centre. This translates into 47 876 person days,” she added.