The Kruger National Park (KNP) held a workshop at Skukuza on March 30 to create a Kruger Park local stakeholder Forum, bringing some 180 stakeholders from various interest groups and communities together. This is in compliance with the Sanparks stakeholder engagement principles and strategy. The aim of the stakeholder engagement strategy is to collaboratively derive a procedure for local public participation.
Helen Mmethi, head of people and conservation in Kruger, and Sue Eber, project manager of Kruger's management plan, facilitated the Park Forum workshop that was held in the auditorium at Skukuza.
After lengthy discussions on several issues the representatives divided into interest groups where they elected two representatives onto the Park Forum. This group, comprising about 20 people, could typically cover issues like tourism, business, biodiversity and research.
The seven community forums adjoining the park elected two representatives each to the Park Forum. The adjoining municipalities – Nkomazi, Mbombela, Bushbuckridge, Maruleng, Ba-Phalaborwa, Greater Giyani, Mutale and Thulamela each have one representative on the Forum.
Typical common concerns between the local authorities and the Park could include the effect of co-operative governance plans such as Integrated Development Programmes and Zoning Plans. The names of the committee nominees will be submitted to the KNP Executive Committee and Sanparks for ratification.
"The terms of reference for the Sanparks Forums are a result of a two year consultative process," says Dr Hector Magome, programme sponsor. "The Park Forum is a means of providing a legitimate platform to communicate Park issues to ensure participation of stakeholders on matters of mutual relevance affecting the Park. It is expected that the Park Forum will facilitate constructive interaction between the Park and local stakeholders.
Park Forums are established to encourage the building of constituencies in support of the natural and cultural heritage conservation goals of Sanparks." The Forum will act as an advisory body to the Park and will meet at least four times a year. Each portfolio committee is required to meet in its own time and ensure it acts as a channel for communication and interaction with its relevant sectors and local community forums.
At the meeting the delegates had a chance to voice opinions and ask questions about the forum. One of the questions raised by the delegates was why the Park needed another Forum when there are already seven community forums operating within its neighbouring communities.
Some delegates raised the issue about representing the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park on the Forum to which Willam Mabasa, head of Kruger's communication department, answered that this will be dealt with at a political and international level.