Dream of Dongola
In June of 2006, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Botswana signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) stating their joint commitment and intention to create the Limpopo-Shashe Transfrontier Conservation Area (TFCA).
This would consist of the Mapungubwe National Park, the northern Tuli Game Reserve in Botswana and the Tuli Circle in Zimbabwe – a total area of around 136 900ha. Various other pieces of land are also under consideration. The story that began with Jan Smuts’ dream of Dongola has finally come full circle.
In recent years, the idea of creating transfrontier conservation areas has become increasingly popular, thanks to the growth of ecotourism as a reliable money spinner for national economies. This process has been driven by a number of agencies, including the Peace Parks Foundation, and southern Africa is lucky enough to have a number of protected areas which span artificial political boundaries.
These include: Greater Limpopo (between Kruger and Mozambique), Ai-Ais-Richtersveld (between SA and Namibia), Kgalagadi (between SA and Botswana), Maloti-Drakensberg (between SA and Lesotho), Lubombo (between SA, Swaziland and Mozambique), and an embryonic TFCA between Malawi and Zambia. Now there is Limpopo-Shashe.
These TFCAs are so valuable because they remove fences and allow free movement of game (and tourists) across large expanses of land. The initiative between SA, Zim and Bots (to give them their familiar titles) is therefore a tremendous leap forward in the holistic protection and rejuvenation of the Mapungubwe area. There are even plans to approach UNESCO and request the expansion of Mapungubwe’s World Heritage to include the wider TFCA.
And one can only imagine the wonders of the Limpopo-Shashe TFCA. Visitors would be able to experience the ancient heritage of Mapungubwe, then go across into the Tuli block for a Big 5 safari, and then head into Zimbabwe to visit the local villages and communities for some living heritage. There are also a number of lesser-known archaeological sites in Botswana, just waiting to be explored.
By David Fleminger