SA now has a perfect 10 of Unesco World Heritage Sites
Addition of the Barberton Makhonjwa Mountains puts SA at the top of Africa
One road has ended and another one starts now.
That is how Mpumalanga tourism MEC Sikhumbuzo Kholwane described the mixed feelings he had after Unesco (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) named the Barberton Makhonjwa Mountains as South Africa’s 10th World Heritage Site on Monday.
“The actual work begins [now] … The ball now is on our court,” Kholwane said. “It was the end of the road, with the beginning of another, new road, because it is about making the site work for the people of the province (Mpumalanga).”Kholwane envisions educational tourism as one of the opportunities to market the site for local and international tourists.
South Africa now tops the list as the country with the most world heritage sites – 10 – in Africa.“Most people living in the Mpumalanga don’t know that we have such a beautiful site with a rock formation which is dating back to three billion years,” Kholwane said.
“Sometimes we talk about tourism as if it is made of international people only, without ourselves. We don’t know our own country. People from outside the continent or the country know our own country better than us.”South Africa has now surpassed Morocco and Egypt in becoming the African country with the most World Heritage Sites.
The other nine are:
• Robben Island (Western Cape);
• Cape Floral Region Protected Areas (Western Cape and Eastern Cape);
• Mapungubwe Cultural Landscape (Limpopo);
• Vredefort Dome (Free State and North-West);
• Maloti-Drakensberg Park [Transboundary with Lesotho];
• Fossil Hominid sites (Gauteng‚ North West and Limpopo);
• Richtersveld Cultural and Botanical Landscape (Northern Cape);
• iSimangaliso Wetland Park (KwaZulu-Natal); and
• ǂKhomani Cultural Landscape (Northern Cape).The mountains form 40% of the Barberton Greenstone Belt which Unesco said is one of the world’s “oldest geological structures”.
Unesco said the mountains represent the “best-preserved succession of volcanic and sedimentary rock dating back 3.6 to 3.25 billion years, when the first continents were starting to form on the primitive Earth”.
It added: “It features meteor-impact fallback breccias resulting from the impact of meteorites formed just after the Great Bombardment (4.6 to 3.8 billion years ago).”Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa said, after the announcement in Manama, Bahrain, that the mountains “have provided an unparalleled source of scientific information on the formation of the early Earth from 3.6 billion years ago. Along with their exceptional geology‚ the area is rich in wild plants‚ animals and beautiful scenery.”The rugged mountain terrain covers about 120 by 30km and houses archaeological sites that include San rock art in caves, ochre mines and stone-age tools and related artefacts.
Kholwane said one of their challenges in finalising their proposal was settling the so-called “buffer zone”.