Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs Ms Edna Molewa signs Vredefort Dome Memorandum of Agreement with Landowners
26 May 2012
The Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, Ms Edna Molewa today signed the Vredefort Dome Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with landowners from the Free State and North West.
Minister Molewa explained that the signing of the MOA signals the start of a formal partnership between government and the landowners of the Vredefort Dome World Heritage Site aimed at ensuring that the integrity and Outstanding Universal Value of the site will be maintained in perpetuity.
The Vredefort Dome was inscribed on the prestigious United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) World Heritage list in 2005 on the basis of having fulfilled selection criteria for being of Outstanding Universal Value to humankind. The intention to proclaim the site in terms of national legislation was gazetted in December 2007. However, the Vredefort Dome has not yet been proclaimed due to concerns raised by landowners.
Government has subsequently addressed most of the concerns and established a multi-stakeholder Steering Committee for coordination purposes. Today marked the outcome of four years of engagement and negotiations between the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA), relevant provincial and local government institutions and the landowners towards the formal proclamation of this breath-taking landscape as South Africa’s eighth world heritage site. This will give the area a formal status like other sites such as Robben Island, iSimangaliso, Mapungubwe, Cape Floral Region, Richtersveld, uKhahlamba Drakensberg, and the fossil Hominid Sites of South Africa encompassing the Cradle of Humankind, Taung Skull and Makapan Valley.
Minister Molewa said, “This ceremony could not have come at a more opportune time as the State Parties to the 1972 United Nations Convention for the protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage are celebrating 40 years of the Convention’s existence. The theme for the anniversary is “World Heritage and Sustainable Development: the role of local communities”.
The theme calls upon all of us to ensure that our world heritage sites are not just established and preserved as “islands of plenty in a sea of poverty”, but claim their rightful place as reservoirs of our heritage that contribute immensely to local economic development. This is critically important more so this year in the context of the Rio+20 Conference which will take place in Rio de Janeiro next month, where the world will be assessing progress made in implementing sustainable development and redefining a new paradigm.
South Africa is proud to have spearheaded the establishment of the African World Heritage Fund through the Department of Arts and Culture as an initiative of the African Union and the African member States of UNESCO. The Fund is geared towards increasing the number of sites and preserving the heritage of existing ones on the African continent through supporting maintenance of national inventories of existing sites, their conservation, rehabilitation of properties in danger as well as support in preparing nomination dossiers for inscription onto the World Heritage List.
South African government was the first State to pledge R20 million towards this course and I am happy to report that, as from March 2012, the fund accumulated R88 million from various countries, with an additional R25 million in pending pledges.
Therefore, the sustainability of sites like the Vredefort Dome depends on the establishment of effective governance arrangements, development of appropriate management systems and provision of financial and human resources to support socio-economic development.
Hence the Department of Environmental Affairs is working with management authorities and relevant role players throughout the country in developing and implementing systems that will ensure continued and effective management of the World Heritage Sites and other protected area systems for the benefit of the present and future generations.
“It is for this reason that as parties to this agreement with landowners, I will be embarking on a consultation process towards final proclamation of this area as a World Heritage Site. The Management Authority will be given full powers and resources to manage the area in terms of relevant policies in order to maintain the highest management standards in terms of an integrated management system and ensure full compliance with UNESCO World Heritage prescripts and South Africa’s World Heritage Convention Act of 1999,” said the Minister.
The signing of this Memorandum of Agreement will pave the way for the proclamation of the area and appointment of Management Authority which will serve as a precursor for the development of an Integrated Management Plan. The management system will address issues relating to preservation of archaeological sites, land use management and zoning, pollution and waste management, water resource and fire management.
As part of this management system, tourism development will be ensured in order to support local economic development. Effective partnerships will therefore be sought with relevant institutions and departments such as National Department of Tourism and Research Institutions, in order to ensure that this area is not only preserved, but presented to South Africans, Africa and the World for both present and future generations.
“I am informed that the process of developing an Environmental Management Framework has already commenced with a Project Inception Meeting held on 30 March 2012 and is due to be completed by 30 June 2013. The Centre for Environmental Management of the North West University will assist government and landowners in this project once facilitation is completed at the end of June,” said the Minister.
Memorandum of Agreement.
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Issued by: Department of Environmental Affairs
26 May 2012
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