JOHANNESBURG - South Africa’s natural and cultural heritage have become tightly inter-women with no less than four heritage sites located inside national parks.
Thulamela is a stone-walled site situated in the Far North region of the Kruger National Park (KNP), and dates back to approximately 450 – 500 years before present (BP).
This late Iron Age site forms part of what is called the Zimbabwe, culture which is believed to have started at Mapungubwe. Mapungubwe’s decline coincided with the increase of Great Zimbabwe’s importance. When Great Zimbabwe was abandoned about 300 years later, possibly due to political break down, several groups moved south across the Limpopo river into the North Eastern areas of South Africa (and Northern Kruger) and established new smaller chiefdoms such as Thulamela
It is believed that the notion and system of sacred leadership developed both from an increase in trade along the east coast and in the interior as well as from an increase in population at Mapungubwe. According to oral histories, the Nyai division of the Shona-speaking Lembethu occupied Thulamela, and it is believed that there was a mystical relationship between their leader and the land. They believed that the ancestors of the leader (or Khosi) would intercede on behalf of the nation. The Khosi, who was an elusive figure and could only be seen by certain individuals, lived in a secluded hilltop palace in view of the commoners as an indication of his sacredness.
The Kingdom of Mapungubwe (1075–1220) was a pre-colonial state in Southern Africa located at the confluence of the Shashe and Limpopo rivers, south of Great Zimbabwe. The name is derived from either Venda or Shona. The kingdom was the first stage in a development that would culminate in the creation of the Kingdom of Zimbabwe in the 13th century, and with gold trading links to Rhapta and Kilwa Kisiwani on the African east coast. The Kingdom of Mapungubwe lasted about 80 years, and at its height its population was about 5000 people. The Mapungubwe Collection is a museum collection of artifacts found at the archaeological site and is housed in the Mapungubwe Museum in Pretoria.
Mapungubwean society is thought by archaeologists to be the first class-based social system in southern Africa; that is, its leaders were separated from and higher in rank than its inhabitants.
Life in Mapungubwe was centred on family and farming. Special sites were created for initiation ceremonies, household activities, and other social functions. Cattle lived in kraals located close to the residents' houses, signifying their value.
Elites within the kingdom were buried in hills. Royal wives lived in their own area away from the king. Important men maintained prestigious homes on the outskirts of the capital. Gold objects were uncovered in elite burials on the royal hill.
Richtersveld World Heritage Site
The Richtersveld is one of the Earth's richest reservoirs of plant and animal life. In the rarely explored land behind Khuboes and Eksteenfontein, there are 33 types of plant that you will find nowhere else in the world.
While many people already know about the Richtersveld National Park, more and more people are catching on about its equally large southern neighbour, the Richtersveld Community Conservancy
10 years ago, the historically disadvantaged people of the Richtersveld united, reclaimed title to their traditional land, and set aside this conservancy to be forever conserved for research and tourism.
The Richtersveld Community Conservancy is also the last refuge of Nama people living what is known as the transhumance lifestyle - to migrate seasonally with their livestock from mountains to the river and so make sustainable use of the fragile succulent ecosystem.
In recognition of this vanishing lifestyle, and of the rare botanical diversity it helps protect, the Conservancy has been declared the core of a new World Heritage Site.
Pic: SAN Parks, Wild Card.
In June 2004, the Cape Floristic Region (CFR), which spans the eastern and western Cape, was declared to be of universal significance to humanity and was inscribed as a Natural World Heritage Site.
The site is a made up of eight separate areas that are considered to be representative samples of the entire region and is managed by four different authorities namely South African National Parks (SANParks), CapeNature, the Eastern Cape Nature Conservation Board (ECNCB) and the South African Biodiversity Institute (SANBI).
Table Mountain National Park and Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens are managed by SANParks and SANBI respectively. This is the first time a botanical garden has been included in Natural World Heritage Site nomination.
The CFR is the smallest and richest of the six floral kingdoms that occur on earth. It is also the only kingdom confined to one continent and is home to an amazing 8 200 plant species - of which around 80% are fynbos. The significance of this hits home when you consider that the British Isles, 3 ½ times the size, boasts less than 1 500 plant species.
Many of the plants that occur here are endemic – that means that they occur nowhere else on earth. To add to this there are around 1,406 threatened plant species, 300 of which are endangered or critically endangered and 29 plant species are already extinct. It is this combination of high diversity and levels of threat from issues like urbanization, poor fire management and alien species that makes the CFR the world’s hottest floral hot-spot. Add to this the increase in global warming and pollution.
The City of Cape Town now boasts no less than three World Heritage sites, namely Table Mountain National Park, Kirstenbosch, and Robben Island.