There are not many South Africans who are perhaps fully aware of the incredible wealth and diversity of our country’s heritage. Discover the heritage highlights of Mzansi by meeting the people who proudly preserve our most treasured spaces.
From Maropeng to Mapungubwe, the Vredefort Dome to the Cape fynbos region, these Hi-Tec sponsored videos showcase the people behind South Africa’s UNESCO World Heritage sites in beautiful stories you’ll want to share.
A compilation of these #UnlockAfrica videos aired as a MeTime session during #WTMA21 and #AfricaTravelWeek on Thursday, 8 April 2021.
Meet the proudly South African locals behind some of the country’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites:
Cape floral region
My hope for the Cape floral region is that all who live in the region can appreciate it more for what it is,” said Rupert Koopman, Conservation Manager at the Botanical Society of South Africa, based in Cape Town.
“People from all over the world come here,” said Koopman hoping that there will be a shift so that locals can be just as proud of what is in their backyard as the international visitors who make the journey.
“The Cape floral region is globally recognised as a region of exceptional species richness. There is almost 70% endemism meaning that 70% of the plants are found nowhere else on earth.
“There are small ways we can take advantage of what we have here,” said Koopman, speaking about the benefit for the locals, encouraging them to instil an appreciation for the outdoors in children from a young age.
“Conservation is the art of keeping your options open.”
Ukhahlamba Drakensberg Park
In 2000, the Ukhahlamba Park was recognised as a world heritage site for its natural and cultural side,” said Joyce Loza, Maloti Drakensberg Transfrontier Conservation and Development Programme. She describes how, on the natural side, there is exceptional plant diversity plus exceptional cultural heritage boasting rock art painted by the San in the Drakensberg about 8000 years ago.
“I am involved in protecting the ecological infrastructure of the Maluti Drakensberg,” said Loza. “That is my passion – ensuring the ecological infrastructure that we find here is protected for our own enjoyment and for the enjoyment of future generations. I love my job because it gives me the freedom to interact with a diversity of partnerships. I get to work with the community; the Chiefs are very generous in their support of us. We are all driving the common vision.”
Cradle of Humankind
“My friends called me Bones,” said Keneiloe Molopyane, Curator at Maropeng & Sterkfontein Visitors Centre at the Cradle of Humankind. “At seven years old, I decided I wanted to be an archaeologist. I wanted to go to Egypt and discover tombs and mummies. In my third year [of my studies], I became obsessed with bones, then moved to underwater archaeology in Cape Town,” joking that her red hair makes her “Ariel, the little mermaid.”
Her role at Maropeng is to make science accessible. “I work with the public, to filter the science jargon for the public, making science cool and accessible, making it less intimidating – which it really isn’t, as long as you know the language.”
Barberton Makhonjwa Mountain Land
“South Africa has very rich fossil heritage,” said Nico Oosthuizen of Barberton Makhonjwa Mountains. “We’ve produced the most iconic fossils in a very small area. This place is so important,” said Oosthuizen, joking that if they knew how much work it was to do a world heritage site, they might not have started the project.
Barberton was inscribed in 2018 as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is one of South Africa’s newest sites.
“The key thing about the project is that it was a partnership project, a partnership between communities, government, the private sector; this was a true team effort,” said Oosthuizen.
“The problem [with the site] was that it was rock, it was small, it was microscopic, and it was academic,” said Oosthuizen. “So, for people to understand that academic subject, that’s where the geotrail came in. The purpose of the geotrail was specifically for local people to understand what they have in their backyard and to have a product to say that there is something unique here. The geotrail unpacks that and make it accessible for the public.”
“There is more than just pride. This is more than just an important world heritage site,” said Mark Ngwenyama of Barberton Makhonjwa Mountains. “It keeps me excited every time. I always tell my son, I tell my wife, I so wish people could appreciate what’s out there in those mountains and when they talk to their children, encourage them to be educated in these fields.”
iSimangaliso Wetland Park
“I’m not an office type of person. I’m a bush person,” said Themba Mtembu, Birding & Cultural Tour Guide at iSimangaliso Wetland Park. “My job gives me the opportunity to live outside.
I’m passionate about inspiring local youth in the area to look differently at the natural resources that could benefit them in the future. We need the community involved,” he said, encouraging the youth to not immediately flee to the cities but consider making a living in the local area, from the natural resources available.
“iSimangaliso is a slice of Africa. There is so much to learn and so much to love about the place.”