Speech by the Minister of Environmental Affairs, Mrs Edna Molewa, at the launch of SA National Parks Week 2016 in the Eastern Cape (Pretoria)

Date Published

The MEC of Economic Development, Environmental Affairs and Tourism in
the Eastern Cape, Mr Sakumzi Somyo,

The Executive Mayor of the Sarah Baartman District Municipality,
Councillor Kekana,

Total SA delegation led by Ms Nyameka Makonya,

First National Bank delegation led by Mr Kgosi Ledimo,

CEO of Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism, Mr Vuyani Dayimani,

Members of the SANParks Board, led by the Chair Ms Joanne Yawitch,

The CEO of SANBI, Dr Tanya Abrahamse,

Our host, the Chief Executive of SANParks, Mr Fundisile Mketeni,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Good morning,

With only 12 days to go to the opening of the international wildlife
trade conference in South Africa, it is fitting that we stand here
today to celebrate our National Parks.

From 24 September to 5 October, delegates from 181 countries will
gather at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg for the 17th
Conference of the Parties to the Convention on the International Trade
in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). The aim of
CITES is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild
animals and plants does not threaten their survival.

Known as CITES COP17, this conference will focus its attentions on the
future operations of the organisation, but also deliberate on the role
of CITES in securing the livelihoods of people living with wildlife
and ensuring communities are considered in terms of interventions
implemented in terms of this Convention.

Among the issues to be discussed during the two-week conference to be
attended by more than 2 000 delegates are the legal and sustainable
wildlife trade, measures to tackle illicit wildlife trafficking, such
as fighting corruption, enhanced enforcement, supporting targeted
demand management and supporting local livelihoods.

CITES COP17 affords the country an opportunity to showcase our rich
biodiversity and successful sustainable use management practices,
which has resulted in South Africa being one of the leading
conservation countries today.

Our country has a proud conservation record having saved important
species such as the black and white rhino, elephant and a number of
indigenous plant species from near extinction in the past century.

We are a country richly endowed with natural resources, making us the
third-most mega-diverse country in the world after Brazil and
Indonesia. It is this biodiversity that contributes to our economy,
food security, job creation and our well-being as a nation.

The sustainable use of indigenous biological resources is fundamental
to the development of our economy and in this regard, game farming,
the hunting industry, eco-tourism and bioprospecting sectors play a
significant role.

It is important at this juncture to acknowledge the role played by the
South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) – which provides
invaluable science-based support to the Department of Environmental
Affairs, and whose mission is to champion the exploration and
conservation of South Africa’s biodiversity. The science-based
research undertaken and records kept by SANBI enables us to make sound
policy decisions to protect and conserve our country’s natural assets;
and as we mark the start of National Parks Week I know I can speak on
behalf of all South Africans when I thank them for the work they
continue to do.

South Africa is the last bastion of the rhino and and our country is
faced with the arduous task of having to protect our rhino – and now
our elephant – from unscrupulous poachers.

We must and will succeed in our efforts to address environmental
crime, thereby enhancing South Africa’s ability to meet the
environmentally-linked Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) adopted
by the nations of the world in December 2015.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Our national parks play a key role in South Africa’s conservation
success story. One of those success stories is right here – in the
Addo Elephant National Park.

This is the third largest national park in South Africa. Addo not only
conserves terrestrial species, but also serves as our country’s first
Big Seven national park, extending its reach to Bird and St Croix

The original elephant section of the park was proclaimed in 1931, when
only eleven elephants remained in the area. Today this well-managed
ecosystem is sanctuary to over 600 elephant. I think we can give them
a round of applause right here and now!

It is important that just before CITES COP17 that we acknowledge these
successes. We don’t want them kept in the dark. We want to tell the
country and the world, what we are doing right here at Addo, and that
they must come witness it for themselves.

The successes of Addo don’t end there. This national park also
conserves other animal species like lion, buffalo, black rhino,
spotted hyena, leopard, a variety of antelope and zebra species, as
well as the unique Addo flightless dung beetle.

We also conserve the southern right whale and great white shark found
in the Marine Protected Area (MPA) off the Algoa Bay coast.

South Africa’s network of 19 national parks play an important role in
protecting our country’s indigenous fauna and flora while contributing
to the improvement of the lives of local communities and the
development of our economy.

Most of our national parks are situated in rural areas, some of which
are in the poorest parts of our country.

These protected areas are an important employer for communities living
adjacent to parks. SANParks has contributed significantly to the
social and economic upliftment of thousands of people namely through
skills development programmes, sustainable job creation, the
procurement of goods and services from marginalised communities, and
support for local tour operators.

Socio-economic development has been defined as one of the three core
pillars of SANParks, along with conservation and tourism.
Transformation of the wildlife economy is tied to socio-economic
development and SANParks continues to play a key role in this regard.

At the Conference on the Biodiversity Economy hosted by the Department
of Environmental Affairs in Durban in October 2015, SANParks pledged
to donate 500 head of wildlife to communities over the next 3 years.

A number of community projects have been initiated in order to bring
neighbouring communities into the wildlife economy and to give impetus
to the implementation of this pledge.

In this financial year SANParks is expected to deliver a second batch
of animals to the Erin Game Ranch owned by the Khomani San community
adjacent to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. The donation of game to
the Khomani San represents part of an ongoing partnership to ensure
progress on development in this area.

We are confident that this is a well-managed wildlife operation with
mechanisms to ensure the flow of benefits to the community.

Communities adjacent to a number of other parks including Addo
Elephant, Augrabies Falls and the Kruger National Park are also being
engaged with a view to supporting the growth of a transformed wildlife

In line with our mandate to support entrepreneurs in this sector, we
have also held engagements with emerging game ranchers – with the view
to develop custodianship and or loan agreements.

SANParks is also a leading implementer of Government’s Expanded Public
Works Programmes (EPWP).

In the 2016/17 financial year SANParks will be delivering 6 469 Full
Time Equivalent jobs and will support 540 SMME’s.

A well-managed and diverse national park system is a key component of
the tourism economy of South Africa. SANParks remains the leading
product owner in the country with over 15 430 tourist beds, of which 6
790 are formal beds and 8 640 are camping beds.

Part of our growth plans for the coming year has included the Nyathi
Rest Camp here in the Addo Elephant National Park. SANParks has also
repurposed what used to be known as Nguni Lodge, into the Nyathi Rest
Camp. This infrastucture conversion means Nyathi Rest Camp now caters
for increasing numbers of self-drive visitors who come to Addo.

These upgrades which cost more than R18,5 million, also resulted in
the employment of 106 members of the local community over 19 months.
Earlier today I was happy to officially launch the infrastructure
upgrades to the new Rest Camp.

The 5.7km access road to the new Rest Camp has been upgraded from
track to gravel, with improved crossing over streams. Bulk electricity
for the Rest Camp has been installed, as well as water and sewer
reticulation upgrades done for the Lodge itself. Staff accommodation
has also been upgraded.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The resolution of land claims in national parks present an opportunity
for engaging communities to make them partners in the development of
eco-tourism, wildlife economy and other ventures.

Earlier this year President Jacob Zuma officiated over the handover of
financial compensation to communities in respect of various land
claims on the Kruger National Park. The handover formed part of Phase
One of the settlement of land claims by communities from Mpumalanga
and Limpopo. The award of financial compensation is in line with the
2008 Cabinet Decision on equitable redress as the approved option for
the settlement of the land claim on the Kruger National Park.

A range of multi-faceted development initiatives are in the process of
being developed in order to provide economic opportunities for
claimant communities adjacent to the Kruger National Park as part of
the settlement package for the land claim in respect of the Park.

We welcome the progress made in respect of the Kruger land claim in
particular and remain committed to playing a constructive role in
supporting the claimant communities going forward.

As part of the overall transformation of the tourism economy SANParks
is gearing its marketing and product development towards bringing in a
new customer base for the national parks. While retaining the
traditional client base of the past, SANParks is diversifying its
product base and re-targeting its marketing thrust to ensure that it
remains competitive into the future. This includes the construction of
conference facilities in the Kruger National Park, and the planned
construction of a hotel in the park.

I am confident that SANParks will ensure through its work that it
remains at the cutting edge of conservation, tourism and
socio-economic development. It manages some four million hectares of
protected land. In the last 21 years, SANParks has focussed on making
the country’s national parks more accessible to communities, and

Ladies and gentlemen,

September is a month of celebration in South Africa. It is a month in
which we celebrate our heritage and tourism. September has also become
the month in which we celebrate our national parks. National Parks
week was launched in 2006 with the objective of cultivating a culture
of pride for all South Africans under the theme “Know Your National
Parks”. It is a theme that has endured.

The main feature of National Parks Week is free access for all South
Africans to national parks as day visitors.

It is a week dedicated to creating awareness about national parks,
raising their public status and educating the public about the need
and use of protected areas. It is a week in which local communities
are encouraged to experience and appreciate the natural beauty of our
country, as preserved in our national parks, and to learn more about
the contribution of these splendid areas to our cultural and natural

By ensuring that our national parks continue to play a meaningful role
in society it is hoped that through South African National Parks Weeks
the value of conservation is understood and that people across the
country will be proud of our parks.

I thank you!

Issued by: Department of Environmental Affairs