Makuleke community, SANParks partnership changes lives in Phafuri

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The partnership between the people of Makuleke in Phafuri, Limpopo, and the South African National Parks (SANParks) has brought about positive changes to the community, which was once displaced.

The community reclaimed their land after they were forcefully removed in 1969 by the apartheid government. It has partnered with SANParks and businesses in a bid to improve the lives of the villagers for the better.

During the forced removals, many people from the village fled to neighbouring Zimbabwe and Mozambique. Through the Land Restitution Act, they managed to reclaim the communal land in 1998, which was incorporated into the Kruger National Park in Pafuri.

Acting Chief, Humphrey Magakula, says this restored the dignity of the Makuleke people.

“Some of the people who were forcefully removed had to run to Zimbabwe, it’s about 15 min walk from here. We have lost identity because some of the guys had to flee to Mozambique and Zimbabwe. When they got there, they were forced to change their surnames but most importantly, we lost our dignity during the removal, hence we have to celebrate Human Rights Day.”

As part of the settlement agreement, SANParks is responsible for the day-to-day conservation activities while the community is responsible for all tourism activities. Community members are also trained in conservation and tourism matters.

SANParks Regional Ranger, Richard Mowry, says they’ll be commencing with a livestock herding project which will benefit the impoverished community.

“There is no better way to grow the economic status than by working with your communities and well-herded livestock. The herding project is something we are starting to work on here. We’ve had a lot of discussions and engagements with communities and we hope it’s something we can get going all around the park. And it’s a win-win for everyone. Win for the environment, win for the lions, win for the people economically.”

The community is looking at attracting more business to the area, which boasts 80 percent of the park’s biodiversity. It has partnered with a luxury safari accommodation group, which has three establishments in the communal land, employing 70 permanent staff.

General Manager, Godfrey Baloyi says, “As we speak now the entire management in the area is from Makuleke. We have the right to go outsource a skill if not found in the community. We are doing well. We are not working here, this is the home and area of our ancestors.”

Magakula says the expansion of commercial partnerships is crucial for the survival of the community.

“CPA has been given a mandate to manage this area, not the traditional council. We sit up there in the village and allow them to work. What we expect from them is to bring money to the community because we want to see them swimming in the pool of money, we need to bring in experienced people, that’s why we bring commercial partners to work in our area.”