National Parks Week
The concept of National Parks Week is not uniquely South African, is celebrated in other parts of the world such as the United States of America and the United Kingdom. What is unique in the South African context though is that ours is not just about celebration.
Our national parks have for many decades been inaccessible to the majority of South Africans. As we promote our national parks and other protected areas through initiatives such as National Parks Week, as well as People and Parks, we are also mindful of the urgent need to diversify the profile of those visiting and enjoying our national parks.
The Department of Environmental Affairs and South African National Parks (SANParks) have worked together since 2006 to mobilise especially those who were previously excluded and encourage them to visit the parks by offering free access during parks week. This initiative has proved to be very successful as visitor numbers keep increasing every year.
The theme this year is “know your national parks”.
One of the objectives of national parks week is to instil a sense of pride in South Africa’s natural and cultural heritage specifically that which is protected through the protected area system.
The launch is taking place in one of South Africa’s most important and special parks (Mapungubwe). Mapungubwe is very important to all of us South Africans as it shows evidence of the largest kingdom in the African subcontinent between the 10th and the 14th century.
This was a very important phase in the history of our country as evidence shows that the people of Mapungubwe were already trading gold and ivory in exchange for glass beads and ceramics with Arabia China and India. This was done through well-established trade routes going through east African ports.
The people of Mapungubwe traded in gold more than 500 years before the first European settlers started the gold trade with Europe. This cultural was a big city of 9000 people. This is bigger than most small towns that we have today.