After four years of negotiations between the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA), relevant provincial and local government institutions and landowners, the Vredefort Dome is officially South Africa’s eighth World Heritage Site.
Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa has signed the Vredefort Dome memorandum of agreement with landowners from the Free State and North West provinces.
She explains that the signing of the memo- randum marks the beginning of a formal partnership between government and the landowners of the site.
“It will ensure that the integrity and value of the site will be maintained,” she says.
The Vredefort Dome was inscribed on the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) World Heritage list in 2005 because it had met the selection criteria of having universal value to humankind.
The intention to proclaim the site a World Heritate Site in terms of national legislation was gazetted in 2007. Landowners’ concerns caused the delay in its proclamation.
“Government has addressed most of the concerns and established a multistake- holder steering committee for coordination purposes,” Molewa says in a statement.
South Africa has 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 for increasing the number of sites and preserving the heritage of existing ones on the African continent by supporting the maintenance of the national inventories of existing sites, their conservation, the rehabilitation of properties in danger and the preparation of nomination dossiers for inscription onto the world heritage list, states Molewa.
The South African government has pledged R20-million to the fund, with a further R88-million from other countries and R25-million in pending pledges.
Molewa adds that the sustainability of sites depends on the establishment of effective governance arrangements, development of appropriate management systems and provision of financial and human resources to support socioeconomic development.
“I will embark on a consultation process for the final proclamation of this area as a World Heritage Site. The management authority will be given the resources to manage the area in terms of relevant policies and ensure compliance with Unesco World Heritage prescripts and South Africa’s World Heritage Convention Act of 1999,” says the Minister.
She adds that the management system will address issues relating to the preservation of archaeological sites, land-use management and zoning, pollution and waste management, water resources preservation and fire management.
As part of the management system, tourism development will be ensured to support local economic development.
The Vredefort Dome is the oldest, largest and most deeply eroded complex meteorite- impact structure in the world. It contains high-quality and accessible outcrop sites that demonstrate a range of geological evidence of a complex meteorite-impact structure.
The site is also rich in ancient art, and evidence of early human occupation can be seen in the caves and rock shelters, as well as on pottery, rock engravings and in the rock art.
“Vredefort is rich in the symbolic representation of our culture; it demonstrates the coming together of scientific and cultural philosophy and practice. Opportunities at Vredefort include geological research through studying the rock art, exploring and understanding the rich culture of the Basotho, Batswana and Khoi San, as well as the early evidence of human cognitive and artistic endeavours that their cultures boast, demonstrating that heritage can be a tool for nation building,” says former Minister of Arts and Culture Dr Pallo Jordan.