19 July 2018


THE OFFICIAL BOKONE BOPHIRIMA GOVERNMENT NEWSPAPER

Taung community urged to preserve Heritage properties

by: Tsholofelo Dintwe    date: 25 May 2018

MEC for Rural, Environment and Agricultural Development (READ), Manketsi Tlhape, has urged the community of Taung and other stakeholders to work with government to increase awareness on African heritage found in the province.

She said this would mobilize enhanced co-operation for their safeguarding as part of efforts to implement sustainable management of heritage gems and to unlock the economic potential. 

The department commemorated African World Heritage Day (AWHD) at the Taung Skull Fossil Site last week.

The event brought together critical stakeholders, including environmentalists, conversationalists, academics, the African World Heritage Fund, the South African Heritage Resources Agency, the Provincial Heritage Resources Agency, the local community, local municipality, dikgosi, and the North West Tourism Board.

As part of its role towards environmental development and management, the READ department used the commemoration to raise awareness on the importance of natural and cultural heritage found in the province, as well as efforts required to safeguard them and draw attention to their vulnerability.

MEC Tlhape said heritage sites have been among the main attractions for tourists since the 19th century. 

“Heritage tourism has grown tremendously and is treated as an economic booster for many countries. If protected and preserved, it has the potential to create many job opportunities and tourist attractions. 

“The infrastructure development will eventually attract professionals to come on board to share their knowledge and expertise in understanding the deep acquaintance of this site,” she said. 

Tlhape encouraged young people to be active participants in developments around the Taung Skull site as the future of heritage sites was highly dependent on their involvement. 

The African World Heritage Day gives the rest of the African continent a great opportunity not only to celebrate, but to appreciate the exceptional cultural and natural heritage the continent has. Proclaimed at the 38th Session of the General Conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) back in 2015, African World Heritage Day is an opportunity for people around the world, and particularly Africans, to celebrate the continent’s irreplaceable heritage. 

Renowned traditionalist, conservationist and environmentalist, Grace Masuku, who attended the event, encouraged local people to know themselves so that they could be in a position to fit themselves in the history of Taung and relate to it. Masuku, a descendant of Bakgatla-ba-Kgafela, said people should have knowledge of their area in order to participate in its development and eventually benefit from that growth. 

“Once you know the significance of your heritage you will eventually know that you have much power to rule the world. In addition to being a historic site, Taung is rich in trees capable of curing many diseases,” Masuku explained. 

She indicated that commitment to the environment and the innovative use of local knowledge and wisdom would lead to having sustainable and ecologically sensitive economic projects.

Masuku said life in Taung had to be documented so that people could learn about its riches and participate in advocating for its preservation. She called on local community members to trust in their ability to contribute in changing lives as well as today’s world. She further advised that it was important for people to keep old customs alive in the belief that losing touch with natural assets was tantamount to letting go of the hand that guides all of life’s most important processes.

The Taung Heritage Site has enormous scientific importance. It was at this site that lime stone diggings took place at the Old Buxton quarry in 1924 and the lime-encrusted skull of a child was unearthed. The Heritage Site is dedicated to the discovery of this Skull. A monument to the discovery was erected at the site and an old mine tunnel had been opened for exploration. 

The site is not only archaeologically important but from the limestone cliffs at the head of the valley, a constant flow of clear water flows through succession of attractive tools descending to this ancient valley. The azure Blue pools are surrounded by picturesque streams. This is a popular hiking abseiling and picnic venue.

To position the site to generate revenue and boost tourism, the provincial government of Bokone Bophirima has allocated funding for infrastructure upgrade on the site, covering improvement of infrastructure, upgrade and restoration of heritage buildings. 

There are currently six projects at implementation stage that include an upgrade of Thomeng road, construction of Thomeng road, construction of picnic ablution, restoration of powerhouse, museum, and restoration of mine manager’s office. 

Future plans are to restore the whole abandoned mining village to ensure all historic buildings left by the mine at the time of closure are used to the benefit of the heritage site. 

Upgrades are expected to create jobs and business opportunities for local communities, as well as upgrade the status of the site. Current developments have already created over 100 job opportunities through sub-contracting and general labourers.