Abraham Ramonwana, head guide at Tuli Safari Lodge says: “if a mine develops in South Africa, it’s also going to affect Botswana and Zimbabwe”.

The authorisation given to an Australian company called Coal of Africa Limited (CoAL) to construct an open-cast coal mine, called the Vele Colliery, just outside of the boundaries of the Mapungubwe National Park will affect this fragile natural harmony. To Abraham, "mining and industry is a short term plan, tourism is a long-term plan."

Abraham, like many others, believes that the Mapungubwe region should be preserved and protected from the impacts of infrastructural development, and allowed to remain pristine for generations to come.

Mapungubwe National Park and World Heritage Site is managed by South African National Parks (SANParks) and its partners. The Greater Mapungubwe Transfrontier Conservation Area is being developed based on the stipulations of a Memorandum of Understanding between Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe that was signed on 22 June 2006. These are officially mandated programmes in which the South African government, the province and private sector have invested. With the official opening of the Mapungubwe National Park on 24 September 2004, the first of three national objectives for the region was reached. The other two objectives were the area’s listing as a World Heritage Site, which happened in 2003, and the establishment of a Transfrontier Conservation Area (TFCA).

TFCAs promote conservation and the sustainable use of biological and cultural resources, while also furthering goals of regional peace, co-operation and socio-economic development. Both Transfrontier Parks and Transfrontier Conservation Areas aim to provide jobs and opportunities for revenue generation to local people. By so improving the lives of rural communities it is hoped that they will in turn contribute to biodiversity conservation and demonstrate the economic and social advantages that can be achieved through conservation. This vision of cross-border collaboration realises the Southern African Development Community’s objective of promoting synergy for economic, social and conservation benefit over the subcontinent.

TFCAs contribute to the broader aims of trans-boundary ecosystem management, integration of conservation with development, promotion of regional cooperation and socio-economic development on the southern African sub-continent, while also forming an important part of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD).

The Greater Mapungubwe Transfrontier Conservation Area has become recognised as the ‘cultural TFCA’. Visitors flock to the area not only to see the magnificent sandstone formations, the wide variety of trees – notably the enormous baobab – and game and birdlife, but also to experience a kinship with past generations. The cultural resources of the Limpopo-Shashe basin are associated with Iron Age settlements of around 1200 AD. The similarity of ivory objects, pottery remains and imported glass beads excavated at different sites spread across the modern international borders of Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe, attests to the cultural affinity of the people that lived in the Limpopo-Shashe basin during the Iron Age.

The Mapungubwe World Heritage Site is a major attraction in the 30 000 ha park and was home to the famous Golden Rhino, a symbol of the power of the King of the Mapungubwe people who inhabited the Limpopo River Valley between 900 AD and 1300 AD. At that time Mapungubwe had developed into the largest kingdom on the subcontinent. It is believed that a highly sophisticated civilisation, which traded with Arabia, Egypt, India and China, existed at Mapungubwe.

The presence of heavy industry in the Mapungubwe area will impact enormously on its tourism and conservation, to such a degree that these activities will have to be reconsidered for the future. South Africa signed a binding document whereby it agreed to be a partner in a trilateral conservation development. By allowing that same conservation area to become part of an industrial area, it is not adhering to the spirit of that agreement.

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