The iSimangaliso Authority is now fully functional and includes representatives from all major stakeholders including local communities. This latter fact is truly innovative: it is the first time in the history of South African conservation that local people and traditional leadership living in or adjacent to a Park of national and universal significance, and who suffered the disadvantages of Apartheid, are fully represented in the highest decision making body of that Park.
The iSimangaliso Authority deals with three broad areas: the management of the wildlife and ecological systems of the area; commercial activities that include the development of nature-based tourism businesses and associated infrastructure in the Park; and improvements in the social and economic condition of people living in the area.
A management agreement between the iSimangaliso Authority and Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife ensures that the day-to-day management of wildlife and natural systems in the Park will continue to be undertaken by the Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife. Conservation in KZN has a proud record of accomplishment and the agreement with Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife ensures this expertise is carried into the management of the Park.
The iSimangaliso Authority has also already launched a major programme to support and build the existing tourism market, to attract new investment into a range of lodges and hotels in the area, and to create opportunities for new nature tourism activities such as boat concessions, game drives and other appropriate tourism services. The new tourism projects are designed to create jobs, stimulate economic growth and generate revenues that will reduce conservation’s reliance on the government’s fiscus – while conforming to strict environmental guidelines through an Integrated Management Plan and Park Regulations prevent over-exploitation of the area and ensure the universal values of the Wetlands are enhanced.
A drive to improve and upgrade the roads, fences, health and other infrastructure that will help iSimangaliso become a world-class tourism destination is also at an advanced stage. This includes unprecedented regional co-operation between South Africa, Mozambique and Swaziland. For example: a serious cross-border push is underway to reduce high levels of malaria that currently affect the health of the region’s inhabitants and inhibit tourists from visiting the region. The Lubombo SDI malaria programme involves a coordinated approach between the three countries, all levels of government in South Africa and the private sector. The programme has included the resumption of anti-malaria spraying in southern Mozambique for the first time since the end of the colonial era and by the end of this season will have reached the boundaries of the Kruger National Park in Mozambique. Lake St Lucia is now malaria free for the first time in history, with malaria in the South African section of the Lubombo down by over 94%, Swaziland by 67% and Mozambique by 43%.