4 August 2003
President Sam Nujoma and President Thabo Mbeki sign treaty establishing Southern Africa's third peace parkOn 1 August President Sam Nujoma of Namibia and President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa signed an international treaty establishing the /Ai /Ais-Richtersveld Transfrontier Park. This follows on the signing by the heads of state of Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe of the treaty establishing the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park on 9 December 2002. Southern Africa's first peace park, the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, was formally opened on 12 May 2000 by the presidents of Botswana and South Africa.
The agreement regarding the establishment of the /Ai /Ais-Richtersveld Transfrontier Park (TFP) was signed by Ministers Philemon Malima of Namibia and Valli Moosa of South Africa on 17 August 2001. Extensive community consultations were conducted beforehand, as the Richtersveld National Park in South Africa is owned by the Richtersveld communities and jointly managed in association with South African National Parks (SANParks). This management structure allows the full participation not only of local communities through elected members representing the four towns in the area (Kuboes, Sanddrift, Lekkersing and Eksteenfontein), but also of local pastoralists. These communities were keen to see the TFP established, as they would all benefit from increased tourism to the area, while at the same time conserving its unique biodiversity. A TFP would also help maintain the cultural heritage and traditional lifestyle of the Nama people.
Since the signing of the agreement, a number of developments have taken place. On the South African side, a management plan for the Richtersveld National Park was drawn up. This necessitated extensive community involvement: several meetings were held between SANParks and the Management Planning Committee of the Richtersveld National Park, as well as public meetings to gauge public opinion on the issue. On 26 October 2002 an official ceremony was held at Sendelingsdrift, where the Richtersveld National Park Management Plan was signed. The approval of the plan by all parties concerned was a major step forward in the development of the park, all the more so because it preceded the signing of the transfrontier park treaty.
Various bilateral committees, both ministerial and technical, as well as national working groups on community development, planning and management, security and customs, and finance were constituted to formalise the establishment of the TFP. The signing of the international treaty will effectively transform the technical committee into a joint management board and the working groups into management committees.
Regarding the international treaty that marked the establishment of the TFCP, a comprehensive consultative process was initiated in June 2002 and a draft of this document, as well as draft integrated tourism and joint management plans were discussed at length over the ensuing months. To assist in the process, Peace Parks Foundation has funded workshops to discuss the latter, the appointment of a TFCA coordinator and a community liaison officer, as well as a number of community workshops. The Foundation's GIS laboratory also assisted in the drafting of the land-use and tourism plans.