Long term negotiations have finally culminated in an application to have the Mnweni ("Upper uThukela Location") declared a Wildnerness Area! This is with a long-term view to have this area included in the Drakensberg World Heritage Site.
Last week, Nkosi Menzi Hlongwane of the amaNgwane community and Nkosi Mthetho Miya of the amaZizi community, the two tribes living in the Mnweni, reached an agreement to set aside large portions of their land for conservation. While still remaining community land, it will be managed by KZN Wildlife. Ultimately, it's inclusion into the Drakensberg World Heritage Site will be a major breakthrough, no longer cutting the region in half. The two chiefs recognise the need to protect the region for fresh water resources, as well as the importance of the fauna and flora of the area. They also recognise the importance of the many rock art sites. The 45 000ha earmarked for this conservation will be fenced off, so that the cattle can still graze on the remaining land.
This development is a big step forward in the preservation of the Drakensberg, and a milestone in its history, since the Mnweni has never been formally conserved. Vertical Endeavour salutes the two chiefs and their people for this wisdom and foresight! We also appreciate the efforts of all inviolved in this process, the persistent efforts of Bergwatch in this region over the years, and KZN Wildlife.
Now, we would like to see more this kind of initiative across the entire Drakensberg region, including the Free State and Eastern Cape section, and the nieghbouring parts of Lesotho!
The respective Nkosis are to be congratulated on this historic step forward. Both tribal authorities have had a long history of conflict. The area concerned is also known for the cultivation of cannabis and many raids in the area over several decades have produced bloodshed. However the issue of poverty and underdevelpoment should also be addressed. Having at one time lived and worked in Bergvile as well as in both of the tribal areas, the challenge for the respective authorities is that of encouraging development. One obvious conribution would be that of hiking trail development and conservation projects. Halala Bayete Nkosi Hlongwane and Nkosi Miya
This pretty completes the end of the old apartheid system of boundaries. The entire berg catchment can now finally form a continuum from north to south.
I do hope though that the local people living in their traditional areas will benefit from this in addition to providing good clean water to down-stream users. It appears from the map (which is very tiny) that even Mlambu's Kraal might fall into the boundary. I would assume that eventual gate charges for access will provide a % of funding for the area.
One wonders if this potentially will mean conservation development in the area, which might be a spin-off for employment for people living here. This will be good, not to mention the return of the Klipspringer as Nkosi Menzi Hlongwane says in the article.
A major milestone and success story. This will also keep silly ideas like the cable car out of the Mnweni too. I'm thinking that some of the locals are probably not happy with this since, since, for example, it impacts their grazing, and they won't be able to hunt anymore. But I think the long-term benefits for the locals far outweigh the short-term adjustments/limitations they will now have to face. Will be nice to see a comeback in antelopes to this area.
This development has spurred on a desire in me to see more of the Berg protected, especially the Free State and Eastern Cape sections. Currently there is a move to have the Magaliesberg declared a Biosphere in order to elevate its protected status, and I think something like this could be set in motion for the rest of the Berg, and Lesotho for that matter, even if it takes a long time. More on this later...