The Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park (GLTP) Giriyondo Tourism Access Facility opened its gates to the public on December 7, 2005. On August 16, 2006, those gates were temporarily closed for the official opening by presidents Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, Armando Guebuzo of Mozambique and Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe.
The access facility links the 1.9 million hectare Kruger National Park (KNP) to the one million hectare Limpopo National Park (LNP) in Mozambique. The treaty to establish the GLTP was signed in Xai Xai in December 2002 by former president Joachim Chissano of Mozambique, Mbeki and Mugabe.
The aim of the Transfrontier Conservation Area (TFCA) concept is to promote joint regional cooperation in conservation effort, “however,” according to the GLTP ministerial committee, “in the process it also takes into consideration issues of socio-economic development through eco-tourism to boost the regional economy.” All guests from the South African side met at the Makhadzi picnic site from where they were bussed to Giriyondo according to a strict time schedule.
At Giriyondo guests were treated to refreshments in a welcoming tent on the South African side before they were ushered to the main tent on the Mozambican side where the programme comprised connoisseur’s caviar, fish, meats, wines and the presidents’ words, with splashes of local cultural entertainment beforehand. Despite Mugabe arriving almost two hours late, most guests, VIPs (including Mbeki and Guebuzo) and organisers, stepped into the revised programme with remarkable patience, grace and competence.
“This is just the beginning of our steps to freedom as we move to the next phase of linking Kruger National Park (KNP) and Limpopo National Park (LNP) with the Gonarezhou National Park in Zimbabwe,” said Mbeki during his key-note address.
Mbeki said six potential sites have been identified for the construction of a bridge across the Limpopo River to facilitate access between Kruger and Gonarezhou National Park. Mugabe added that Zimbabwe is “working hard to ensure she is ready for the opening of the access facility between the KNP and Gonarezhou National Park on the other side.”
He donated Z$2billion for the rehabilitation of roads, construction of bridges and lodges in the Park (eliciting a few chuckles from the some of those present). “The Zimbabwe National Army will commence de-mining in the Sengwe Corridor in due course, while the airport in Chiredzi has been earmarked for upgrading to meet international standards,” he added.
Mugabe also pledged 20 sables to the restocking of the LNP. In his address, Guebuzo paid tribute to the pivotal role played by the former president Nelson Mandela, Prince Bernard of the Nertherlands and the late Anton Rupert in the establishment of the GLTP. He highlighted the importance of the GLTP in Mozambique’s struggle against poverty and creating opportunities for employment.
Guebuzo aptly concluded the official speeches with a toast to the prosperity of the GLTP, regional integration and cooperation and to peace and solidarity among peoples and nations. The GLTP is one of 14 transfrontier conservation areas in the Southern African Development Region (SADC).