Categorisation of uMkhanyakude district as a poverty node will soon be a thing of the past, if everything goes according to the wishes and plans of the Chief Executive Officer of iSimangaliso. CEO Sibusiso Bukhosini shared this dream during a three-day local stakeholder and government personnel exposure visit to iSimangaliso Wetland Park this past week. Speaking to delegates, who included Mayors, Municipality Managers, Councillors, Local Economic Development officials, and communities represented by People and Parks leadership, Mr. Bukhosini broke the news that iSimangaliso will be hosting a business investment summit on 26 August 2021, with the intention of inviting investors and opening business opportunities which will help to alleviate unemployment in uMkhanyakude. uMkhanyakude district is predominantly rural, with no resident industry, hence the high level of poverty rate, which currently stands at 42.8%. Mr Bukhosini has made a call for local government to join hands with iSimangaliso and plan together, if the status quo is to be turned around. “Tourism is by far the main source of economic activity in the area and it’s critically important to maximise the opportunities presented by the tourism industry to improve the lives of the ordinary people and surrounding impoverished communities”, said Bukhosini. “Appropriate alignment, both in space and time, by all government structures working in these areas, will ensure the maximisation of revenue generation to fund operations and also to improve human livelihoods of our local communities”, he added. iSimangaliso’s plans are being implemented in line with the Integrated Management Plan of the Entity.
Over three days, delegates had pleasure of traveling across the second largest Park in the country, which stretches from Maphelane in the south, right up to Kosi Bay on the Mozambique border. Viewing sites earmarked for development, and projects currently being rolled out, range from roads to market stalls. Highlights include a high level lodge, which is envisaged once all planning processes are complete, in an amazing Kosi Bay site with a wonderful view overlooking fish kraals. This is a local conservation-friendly traditional method of catching fish, passed from generation-to-generation for over 700 years. The World Bank, through their GEF 7 funding cycle, has approved approximately R50 million worth of projects, of which a significant portion of the budget will be dedicated to this site, to fund community equity in the project.
Recently implemented projects within iSimangaliso include:
- Construction of Head Office building in St Lucia
- Charters Creek lodge development
- Various park roads upgrade
- Sodwana craft market upgrade
- Renovations of tourism facilities including Cape Vidal, Maphelane, Kosi Bay, Sodwana and Bhangazi Bush Camp
- Refurbishment of jetties across the park
- Construction and refurbishment of Park furniture
- Erection of Park signage
- Reservoir maintenance
- Refurbishment of tourist access gates to the Park
- Refurbishment of Crocodile Centre
- Maintenance / fixing of the ditch between Jabula and Main beach at St Lucia.
- Bhanganeck community lodge upgrades
- Fence maintenance
Rolling out of these projects is not only going to improve visitors’ experience of the Park – they will now be able to drive with a sedan car on the roads where previously only 4x4s could drive – but it will also put bread on the table of many local poor communities. Community members are employed by companies that are subcontracted by iSimangaliso to implement these projects in the Park. He further revealed that iSimangaliso has spent approximately R241 million on SMMEs, and created in excess of 3298 job opportunities.
Explaining the objectives of iSimangaliso Wetland Park, Mr Bukhosini summarised it into three main spheres, being:
- To conserve, protect and present the Park.
- To empower historically disadvantaged communities living in, and adjacent to, the Park
- To optimise tourism and related development in the Park
- iSimangaliso’s gesture of hosting a stakeholder Park learning and knowledge exchange visit was welcomed by the delegates, and resolved to establish uMkhanyakude Tourism masterplan which will be driven at the leadership level of Mayors, Municipal Managers and CEOs, assisted by executives.
For more information on the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, visit our website at isimangaliso.com. Media enquiries should be directed to Bheki Manzini at firstname.lastname@example.org.