By Melissa Wray In Klaserie
Since the early 1990s the Kruger Park has been hoping to move and upgrade the Orpen Gate of the Kruger National Park. There have been numerous setbacks along the way, but it appears that a green light may finally be in sight for the relocation.
Critical to the movement of the gate is the deproclamation of the national road leading up to the present gate. The intention to deproclaim the road was advertised in 2001. Following an objection by a landowner who was worried about access to his property if the gate was moved, the process came to a temporary standstill.
Talks between the landowner, Jasper Pirow, and the Kruger National Park then resulted in a solution to the problem, and Pirow withdrew his objection in 2003. Communities in the area then raised further objections, stating that they were not properly consulted in the process.
According to Thomas Shivambu from the provincial roads agency, the committee charged with advising the MEC on whether or not the road should be deproclaimed also caused a further delay. "They were unable to agree on the constitutionality of the board." The board meets at Thulamahashe as the Orpen Road falls under the jurisdiction of the Bohlabela District Municipality.
The road board has finally elected a chairman, and according to Albert Tendani from the Department of Public Works at Thulamahashe, they have agreed in principle to deproclaim the road. Board members then conducted a site inspection together with Kruger Park personnel and Welverdiend community members on February 16, 2005.
The community members will report back to their villages on the issue, and return their comments to the road board. If the communities are positive about the deproclamation of the road and the movement of the gate, the road board is expected to inform the MEC that they believe the road should be deproclaimed. started.
According to Natalia Ndabe-Mapfumo, the drawn out process has caused her region to keep applying for funds to build the gate. The estimated cost of building the gate has risen from R200,000 to over a million Rand. The park is hoping to construct a new gate which includes housing for the guards and a curio shop. The curio shop will be run by the local communities with help from the park's social ecologists. Moving the gate will also mean that tourists will have easier access to a newly developed cultural village that the local communities have set up.