SA gets ninth World Her­itage site

Vuk'uzenzele - - General - Ed­win Tshiv­hidzo

soUTh AFrICA’s most re­cent World Her­itage site bears tes­ti­mony to an un­chang­ing way of life that dates back thou­sands of years – and is a her­itage that should be trea­sured and pre­served.

Aninth South African World Her­itage site – the ‡Khomani Cul­tural Land­scape – has been added to the United Na­tion’s Ed­u­ca­tion, Sci­en­tific and Cul­tural Or­gan­i­sa­tion’s (Unesco) pres­ti­gious list of sites.

Now recog­nised by Unesco as a site of uni­ver­sal value, the area cov­ers the en­tire Kala­hari Gems­bok Na­tional Park and is part of the Kgala­gadi Trans­fron­tier Park bor­der­ing Botswana and Namibia.

The ‡Khomani and re­lated San peo­ple are the di­rect de­scen­dants of an an­cient group of peo­ple who in­hab­ited south­ern Africa about 150 000 years ago.

“This ex­cit­ing an­nounce­ment brings with it prospects of de­vel­op­ment for South Africa and our neigh­bours, but it has global sig­nif­i­cance that ex­tends far be­yond our re­gion,” said Tourism Min­is­ter Tokozile Xasa.

The recog­ni­tion will fo­cus world at­ten­tion on this iconic site and its role in the de­vel­op­ment of mod­ern hu­mans. “It’s where hu­mans came from,” Min­is­ter Xasa said.

The vast, sandy re­gion holds ar­chae­o­log­i­cal ev­i­dence of hu­man oc­cu­pa­tion from the Stone Age to the present. The no­madic peo­ple adapted to the harsh desert con­di­tions, de­vel­op­ing spe­cific sur­vival strate­gies. Ac­cord­ing to Unesco, “They de­vel­oped a spe­cific eth­nob­otan­i­cal knowl­edge, cul­tural prac­tices and a world­view re­lated to the ge­o­graph­i­cal fea­tures of their en­vi­ron­ment.

“The ‡Khomani Cul­tural Land­scape bears tes­ti­mony to the way of life that pre­vailed in the re­gion and shaped the site over thou­sands of years.”

The land­scape has re­mained rel­a­tively un­changed since hu­mans were hunter-gath­er­ers, and is man­aged by South African Na­tional Parks.

A her­itage to share with Africa

While Min­is­ter of En­vi­ron­men­tal Af­fairs Edna Molewa and her de­part­ment were the of­fi­cial cus­to­di­ans of the site, “this achieve­ment be­longs to all the peo­ple of South Africa”, Min­is­ter Xasa said.

“This is the her­itage that our en­tire na­tion should trea­sure and pre­serve.”

Any de­vel­op­ment would take into ac­count the need to pro­tect and pre­serve this unique en­vi­ron­ment, the cul­tural prac­tices of the lo­cal peo­ple, and all the her­itage as­pects of this amaz­ing cul­tural land­scape, the Min­is­ter added.

“We must work to­gether to con­vert th­ese as­sets into eco­nomic and so­cial ben­e­fits, with­out neg­a­tively im­pact­ing on the en­vi­ron­ment, the cul­ture and the dig­nity of peo­ple past and present.”

The Min­is­ter ap­plauded lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties for their ef­forts to pre­serve their cul­ture.

She added that this ac­knowl­edge­ment of the uni­ver­sal sig­nif­i­cance of the site would for­malise and con­sol­i­date the con­tin­ued preser­va­tion of an­cient cul­tural prac­tices and tra­di­tions.

The ben­e­fits of tourism de­vel­op­ment in the re­gion would make a big dif­fer­ence in the lives of the lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties, the Min­is­ter added.

It also opened up pos­si­bil­i­ties for in­te­grated tourism de­vel­op­ment in south­ern Africa, par­tic­u­larly in part­ner­ship with Namibia and Botswana.

The in­ter­est in this site was likely to spread fur­ther north through the African con­ti­nent.

“We are al­ways will­ing to work with our African coun­ter­parts to link and co-de­velop cul­tural and her­itage prod­ucts for the ben­e­fit of re­gional tourism, which makes a sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tion to many economies on the con­ti­nent,” Min­is­ter Xasa said.

Other African Unescosites

The Min­is­ter also con­grat­u­lated An­gola and Eritrea for the sites in their coun­tries that have won Unesco recog­ni­tion. “Th­ese an­nounce­ments once again demon­strate the unique cul­tural and her­itage tourism as­sets we have in Africa.”

Unesco has added the City of As­mara in Eritrea and the town of Mbanza Kongo in An­gola to the list of World Her­itage sites.

Mbanza Kongo was the cap­i­tal of the King­dom of Kongo, one of the largest states in south­ern Africa be­tween the 14th and 19th­cen­turies.

As­mara, the cap­i­tal of Eritrea, de­vel­oped from the 1890s to be­come “an ex­cep­tional ex­am­ple of early mod­ernist ur­ban­ism at the be­gin­ning of the 20th cen­tury”, ac­cord­ing to Unesco.

A tra­di­tional way of life in the Kgala­gadi Trans­fron­tier Park.

The ‡Khomani San Cul­tural Land­scape holds ar­chae­o­log­i­cal ev­i­dence of hu­man oc­cu­pa­tion from the Stone Age to the present.

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