Minister Edna Molewa’s speech during the opening of the Kwelera National Botanical Gardens ribbon-cutting

30 September 2014
Hon. Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is truly a pleasure to be here today to launch the first ever botanical garden in the Eastern Cape. Even more so in such a fine example of natural, unspoiled beauty.
When our common ancestors walked here many, many years ago, they too must have marveled at the pristine coastal dune forests and grasslands found here in the area they, and we still call Kwelera. It is derived from the Khoikhoi word Goerecha – the Place of Many Aloes.
This year we mark the first decade since the founding of the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), a public entity under the national Department of Environmental Affairs that manages the country’s national network of biodiversity centers. The launch of the Kwelera Botanical Garden here today is historic in many aspects. Firstly because it is South Africa’s 10th national botanical garden.
But more importantly for us, because it is the first time in our country’s history that a national botanical garden is being managed through a partnership arrangement; in this case between SANBI and the Eastern Cape Parks & Tourism Agency.
This venture has been the realization of the common vision we both share, to work together for the conservation of the environment, for current and future generations.
Both parties have collaborated on the project for the past three years. Their relationship is formalized by a Memorandum of Agreement signed in March 2012 between the parties and the MEC for Economic Development, Environmental Affairs and Tourism in the Eastern Cape.
In terms of the agreement, the area will be co-managed with SANBI as the natural portion of the proposed new Kwelera National Botanical Garden. In March 2013 a letter of consent was issued by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries to the ECPTA, giving consent to use the Kwelera Nature Reserve as a National Botanical Garden.
The Reserve in which we stand today is an important biodiversity corridor along the coast between the Gonubie and the Kwelera estuaries.
The garden will be established in 2 phases. Today we mark the launch of the first phase, which is the proclamation of 160 ha portion of state land that formerly was part of the Kwelera Nature Reserve - into the natural portion of the Kwelera National Botanical Garden.
The National Botanical Garden will be classified under the international definitions of botanical gardens as a ‘conservation garden’, which will contain, or have associated areas of natural vegetation. This is in addition to cultivated collections that will be established on land adjacent to the coastal dune forest of the Reserve.
This area, which will form part of Phase 2, and which SANBI is currently busy acquiring, will include offices, research facilities, an education centre, visitor facilities, pathways, nursery facilities, boardwalks and demonstration gardens showcasing the breadth and diversity of the Eastern Cape’s botanical riches.
It is hoped that the land will be acquired by SANBI in 2015 and incorporated into the existing Kwelera National Botanical Garden. It is envisaged that the development of these facilities will attract and host thousands of visitors to appreciate the beauty of this portion of the South-east African coastline.
Because conservation of the environment has to be matched by sustainable development. This is a policy championed by our government and one we wish to emphasize again here today. Biodiversity isn’t just an ecological imperative: it also holds immense potential for socio-economic development of communities.
The Garden will provide a tourism attraction for the Buffalo City Metropolitan Municipality and the greater East London area. It is hoped it will play a significant role in promoting biodiversity education to surrounding communities. And importantly, that it will pave the way for the growth of local tourism by linking with local and regional tourism initiatives as Jikeleza Tourism.
This new Garden forms part of SANBI’s Gardens Expansion Strategy, and work is currently underway to establish a new national botanical garden in the Limpopo Province as well.
In this the 20th anniversary of our democracy: we can look proudly to our many achievements in creating a better life for all. And as we enter the next phase of our country’s development – we remain united in our quest to Move South Africa Forward.
The launch of the Kwelera National Botanical Garden in the Eastern Cape is as step in that direction. Through this garden we are creating an oasis of tranquillity here at Kwelera, allowing our people, many of who have never had access to such facilities before, to have an outlet for recreation and leisure.
We are also laying the groundwork for the socio-economic upliftment of communities; and their advancement into the mainstream economy. Because all conservation efforts will ultimately remain short-sighted unless they are aligned with principles of sustainable development.
On behalf of DEA, I would like to congratulate SANBI, ECPTA and its partners for reaching this milestone, and I would like to formally declare the Kwelera National Botanical Garden officially open.