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The Kruger National Park is a national park in the north of South Africa. The park itself was such proclaimed in 1898, and through the years expanded by incorporating surrounding land into the park. In this process many communities were evicted from the land that they have been living, with these communities being excluded from using the natural resources they rely on.

In order to address the past inequalities and the forcible removals, the restitution program aimed at land reform enabled certain communities to claim back the land that they were evicted from. Some communities got their land returned on the condition that it will be used for conservation purposes. Communities that did not lodge a claim, or did not comply with the requirements of restitution, still live on the periphery of the park where they were moved. These communities often live in extreme poverty and off government grants.

In terms of the South African Constitution, there should be legislative and other measures to “secure and ecologically sustainable development and use of natural resources while promoting justifiable economic and social development”. The focus of this study is on the public participation principle in the management of the Kruger National Park conservation area (natural resources) to include the peripheral communities (promoting justifiable economic and social development).

The principle is provided for in various legislation, most notably the National Environmental Management Act (NEMA) and the National Environmental Management: Protected Area Act (NEM:PAA). While the former lays down the general principles that need to be adhere to in all environmental management in South Africa, the latter provides for certain specific mechanisms on how this can be done.

From a desktop study and literature analysis based on certain criteria, it seems that while some of these measures are followed, it does not necessarily involve the participation of the whole community, nor does it provide for meaningful participation. Our study also indicated that the experience is different for different communities. Land reform and traditional leadership institutions add complexities to the situation.

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