Address at the launch of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park – 2000/05/12

12 May 2000 

Your Excellency, President Festus Mogae of Botswana
Ministers of Botswana and South Africa,
Distinguished Diplomats Ladies and Gentlemen:

I am pleased to be here today on this important occasion as our two sister countries come together to launch the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park.

It was just over a year ago, on 7th April 1999, that our two countries – Botswana and South Africa – signed the historic Bilateral Agreement to manage our adjacent national parks (the Kalahari and the Gemsbok) as a single unit to be known as the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park.

Even as Botswana and South Africa will continue to maintain, and indeed exercise their sovereign rights, our citizens will unite in teams working together to advance the management of biodiversity and further the economic objectives of our two countries.

Thus today we meet here to celebrate this important step in the history of our sub-region and we pledge to continue our collective commitment to work together for the conservation of the natural resources of our region.

We are inviting the people of our two lands and of the world to visit our shared natural heritage and to get to know at firsthand how the famed Kgalagadi gemsboks, lions and many other species of this wilderness survive in what many would classify as a ver y harsh environment.

Today we are celebrating the fulfilment of four conditions that will ensure the success of our transfrontier park. These are:

  • Firstly, co-operative management which provides significant gains in conservation value;
  • Secondly this transfrontier park enables us to provide a more complete tourism experience than either country can provide on its own;
  • Thirdly, mutual co-operation will promote easy access by visitors through efficient and convenient border control facilities, a convenient road network, fair pricing and sensible, uncomplicated and user-friendly rules and regulations;
  • Lastly, a transfrontier park must lead to improvements in the quality of life of the neighbouring communities and must serve as a regional tourism engine, generating a broad flow of economic and social benefits to all the people of this region.

The absence of human barriers, except to the west and the south, has made possible the establishment of a conservation area large enough to maintain examples of ecological processes such as large-scale nomadic and seasonal movements of wildlife that were o nce widespread in the savannahs and grasslands of Africa. The sheer size of this park emphasises its value; for the vast size of the ecosystem is its most outstanding feature.

The pooling of resources and expertise has led to a number of key research projects, the findings of which will tell us a great deal about the movements of lions and migratory antelope as well as vegetation description and mapping.

This mutual co-operation between Botswana and South Africa, in particular through the Department of Wildlife and National Parks of Botswana and the South African National Parks, has ensured, and will continue to ensure, the ecological integrity of this vas t ecosystem.

I am pleased that agreement has also been reached on cross-border movements that will make it easy for visitors to enjoy the facilities offered on both sides of the transfrontier park.

Finally, Botswana and South Africa are working together towards a comprehensive plan for tourism development, with the emphasis on creating opportunities for mutually beneficial partnerships between the park and local people.

On the South African side, the recently concluded agreement with the San people which provides for their continued access to traditional resources is one such example.

Perhaps of most importance to all of us here today is that this launch of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park is not only a concrete expression of the relationship between Botswana and South Africa, but it is also part of our larger efforts in the Southern Af rican Development Community as we move towards greater co-operation and economic integration.

It in the context of the SADC Protocol on Wildlife Conservation and Law Enforcement that our launch must be understood. For this successful launch begins to put into practice the establishment of a common framework for the conservation and sustainable use of wildlife in the SADC region and to meet the need for building national and regional capacity to manage wildlife and enforce the laws that govern it.

The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park sets into motion the first of several trans-national conservation initiatives being pursued within the SADC region. These initiatives were given impetus at a Heads of State summit in Victoria Falls last year where Tourism a nd Environment Ministers were charged with the task of investigating the possibility of establishing transfrontier parks in the SADC region.

At the centre is the plan for one of the largest conservation areas in the world when we create a transfrontier park that will link Mozambique’s Coutada 16 Wildlife Utilisation Area, Zimbabwe’s Gonarezhou National Park and South Africa’s Kruger National Pa rk into a single ecological unit. This will be of enormous economic potential for the peoples of the region.

In the Vhembe/Dongola National Park for instance, a critical piece of land has been transferred to the custody of South African National Parks. On this land are found the Mapungubwe archaeological sites, which hold much promise in our preservation of our c ommon African heritage. The Mapungubwe sites with their riches will contribute to the enhancement of the Transfrontier Park planned with Botswana and Zimbabwe.

Indeed the time has come again for the elephants to roam freely across the Limpopo River once more and regain the free-roaming, migratory routes of the past.

The moment is ripe for all our countries through the various Protocols that have been signed to consolidate development in our region. Through ensuring that the SADC Trade Protocol comes into effect in this year, we shall be better placed to create the con ditions in which our regional trade can flourish and at the same time which attract more foreign direct investment to our economies.

The formulation of a regional developmental strategy for the entire SADC region through various initiatives must be finalised so that indeed we do meet the developmental challenges of our region and seek even in the short term to bring about tangible benef its to all our member countries.

The launch of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park is a step in the right direction towards the attainment of our developmental goals. Let us now speed up all the processes for the economic development of our region, for related progress in telecommunications and the transport sector and for co-ordinated efforts in regional states to develop quality health care for all our people.

I thank you.

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