The Bakgalaka people at Phalaborwa in Limpopo have welcomed the decision by South African National Parks (SANParks) to recognise and preserve their heritage site. SANParks launched Mount Tshikumbu at Kruger National Park Gate-one to make the historical hill accessible to the public.
The hill was home to the Bakgalaka people who moved to the area from Zimbabwe in 1658 under the leadership of Chief Tongogara.
The recognition also forms part of SANParks free week where citizens get free access to some of its facilities. The Bakgalaka community say the recognition is reassuring that their heritage will be preserved.
SANParks says it has been granting access to the descendants of the Bakgalaka people to perform rituals on the hill over the years, but from this point onwards, members of the public will also have access to visit the sacred site.
Motsatso Mokgalaka, who is on of the beneficiaries, says, “What SANParks has done here re-assures us that this is indeed our land, it gives us hope that one day we will reap the rewards of the minerals that are found here which were forcefully taken from us.”
On top of the hill, there are three graves of three leaders, including the Bakgalaka’s Chief Tongogara.
A historic milestone was reached this year. The community, however, bemoaned the delays by the Land Claims Commission to recognise them as the rightful owners of the land.
“We are still struggling, commissioners do not want to gazette our land for some reason that we don’t know last June the 24, 25 and 26 we came with them here to show them the homesteads. So we showed them all over, we went up showing them the ruins, the old houses,” explains Mokgalaka.
SANParks wants to use this year’s Mahala week to show visitors that the Kruger National Park has a lot to offer in addition to the Big Five.
“To us as SANParks, is not just access of people coming in to see elephants and other animals, we have a wealth of cultural heritage in this park and this hill where we are today, it’s one of those elements of cultural heritage which we are now exposing to the general public,” explains SANParks Thabo Kgomommu.
SANParks has been using this year’s parks’ week, where citizens get free access to its facilities, to showcase numerous heritage sites.
12 September 2022 marks the start of National Parks Week: