Department on World Heritage Sites: briefing


01 April 2003
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Meeting Summary

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Meeting report

1 April 2003

Mr Arendse (ANC)

World Heritage Sites - Department Presentation
Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site - Gauteng Provincial Government Department

The Department briefed the Committee on the protection of World Heritage Sites convention. Members were informed on the Cradle of Humankind project. The vision of the project was outlined. High expectations about the project, and competing interests from landowners, the community, scientists, and government were discussed.


Mr Makgolo, Deputy Director Cultural Heritage Resources and World Heritage Convention, Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT) gave an overview of the convention concerning the protection of World Heritage Sites (WHS's). The convention was adopted by UNESCO in 1972, but only ratified in South Africa in 1997. Its objective was to ensure the protection of cultural and natural heritage sites of outstanding universal value. He described the existing four sites in South Africa (Robben Island, the Cradle of Humankind, the Greater St Lucia Wetlands Park, and the Ukhahlamba/Drakensberg Park) and presented a tentative list of other WHSs in SA. He stated that the department recommended a separate directorate for implementing the convention, and the provision of funding for implementation.

See attached presentation for details.

Ms Metcalfe, MEC for the Department of Agriculture, Conservation, Environment and Land Affairs discussed some of the concerns about the WHS. The site covered a huge area, but most of it is underground, and not easily visible. The mission of the project was to conserve the site for furtherance of scientific work, and to educate people about why it was so important. The department was involved in long term planning to create a network of visitor experiences so that visitors could understand what the site meant to humankind.

In terms of the convention, the site had to be conserved. The government aimed to stimulate economic activity and improve the lives of people additional funding had been received.
It was endeavoured that an infrastructure be created to attract tourists and to make sure that benefits accrued to the communities in the West Rand (which is in economic decline).

The Project is part of the 'Blue IQ' or 'Strategic Economic Infrastructure Program' which aims to put in infrastructure to create conditions for the private sector to invest, and thus provide jobs and development.

Thus the project was valuable because
-it was conserving a remarkable world heritage site
-it would improve the lives of people by stimulating economic growth, and through setting up two trust funds: one was a scientific fund to ensure that the work continued, the other was a community trust fund to provide training and bursary opportunities.

Mr Michael Worsnip, Programme Manager (Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site) briefed the Committee on the Cradle of Humankind project. He discussed the background (there are high expectations from the project, and competing interests from landowners, the community, scientists, and government). The vision of the project as well as some future plans was discussed.

Please refer to attached presentation.

Ms Ramotsamai asked Mr Makgolo for clarification on the criteria of a WHS and who decided on the classification of a site. Was there one uniform management strategy for all WHS sites? Mr Worsnip was asked what the plan of the centre was and what people were going to experience at the site. What sort of arrangements had been made for training of young black people in the region, and for spreading of expertise to all people?

Mr Makgolo stated that workshops were held in each province explaining what a WHS was, and site submissions were received from each province. These potential sites were assessed according to convention criteria. They were in the process of revising the list. As each site had a different history and different needs there was not one uniform management strategy, but that certain goals had to be fulfilled.

Mr Worsnip was not able to expand greatly on the plans for the site, because they had not officially appointed that concessionaires yet, but he was very enthusiastic about the plans, and said that it would be dynamic, beautiful and an African icon. The space should be used not just as a museum but as a place to be used by all people.

Ms Metcalfe answered that a great deal of donor money had been allocated to training of local people. They were working closely with the Department of Trade and Industry and Department of Labour. In terms of increasing the black expertise in paleo-anthropology the site would help to raise the awareness of students and scholars.

Mr Moorcroft (DA) asked for clarification on the difference between natural sites and cultural sites. What were the implications of private ownership of a WHS: what incentives could be implemented to encourage private land owners to preserve sites? Would table mountain be a WHS.

Mr Makgolo replied that
Cultural sites were sites of purely cultural significance (like Robben Island)
Cultural landscapes were sites of inherent cultural significance as well as natural significance (like the Richtersveld)
Mixed sites were valuable both for their cultural and their natural resources (like Ukhahlaba/Drankensberg park)

With regard to private ownership Mr Makgolo stated that most of the ecologically sensitive land in South Africa was in private hands. Land owners had a responsibility to protect these resources that the regulations must enforce. This was in the form of legislation around EIA's (Environmental Impact Assessments) etc.

Table Mountain itself was too small to be a WHS. However, the Cape Peninsula National Park (in which Table Mountain is included) was on the tentative list of new sites.

Ms Ndzanga (ANC) asked if there were any communities in the area and if so, how could they benefit from the project.

Mr Worsnip stated that the government was not a tourism developers per se, but because their focus was job creation and economic empowerment, a detailed community development program had been developed. The site was under-populated and most of the people had jobs. However, a process of community involvement had been started (taking people to the sites and educating them on the value and potential of the project). People who will be brought in to work at the Information Centres will be settled in the area as tenants, with the aim of turning them into the land owners of the future. There was only one land restitution claim in the region.

Ms Mabe (ANC) asked about the financial sustainability of the project. How would they ensure that poor people got access to the area? What arrangements had been made with the Northern Province, which shared some of the area with Gauteng?

Ms Metcalfe stated that while the infrastructure would be built by Government, it would then be sold to private companies, who would manage it in accordance with government guidelines, and who would continue to give funds for development, training, and conservation.

Mr Worsnip said that poor people would definitely be able to access site. The concessionaire had come up with various schemes to ensure that everyone could experience the site. The community must have a sense of ownership of the site and an understanding of its value. It had been in the interests of the previous regime to hide the importance of the site, and that this was changing. The site had been designed so that the Northern Province would also benefit from the increased tourism.

Mr Le Roux (NNP) asked about the power lines in the area. Would they have to be taken down so as not to detract from the site?

Mr Worsnip stated that the cost of putting the power lines underground was prohibitive. Their vision was rather to highlight them. They wanted to use aspects like the power lines, and the power station, to demonstrate the development process, and to challenge people to confront and debate the extraordinary route of human development.

Ms Chalmers (ANC) asked about marketing the site. Do they have a website?

Mr Worsnip gave the website address: and stated that it would be a very valuable education and marketing resource. Ms Chalmers also asked about WHSs that needed to be protected, not advertised.

Mr Makgolo replied that some WHS would not be open to the public.

Mr Arendse (ANC) asked how the management of these sites would be monitored.

Mr Makgolo replied that if a site was not correctly managed it could be put on the World Heritage Endangered List. To avoid this the department required a management plan for all World Heritage Sites.

The meeting was adjourned.


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