No Conflict Over Management of Table Mountain National Park

© Roger de la Harpe

The Chief Executive of South African National Parks (SANParks), Dr David Mabunda, announced on September 8, 2010, at the organisation's head office in Pretoria that there has been no official correspondence from the City of Cape Town to indicate that the municipality wants to take over the management of Table Mountain National Park (TMNP) or to take SANParks to Court over the issue of baboon management in Cape Town.

"Despite the numerous media statements related to the issues of concern by officials in the municipality it should be known that SANParks has for many years enjoyed a cordial relationship with the City which has culminated into a structured working relationship. All matters of concern are dealt with through the periodic bilateral meetings held between the two organisations", said Dr Mabunda.

TMNP is considered one of the top five financially viable national parks along with the Kruger, Tsitsikamma, Addo Elephant National Parks and Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. These national parks have for a number of years been able to achieve a surplus on their budgets but not all of them have been able to achieve this independently of contributions from other sources. TMNP is one of these entities. In the 2003/2004 to 2009/2010 financial year period the national park collected an income of R478,8 million while its overall expenditure was R592 million.

Due to contributions of R214,3 million (R118,7 million from the national departments of environmental affairs and tourism, as well as water affairs and forestry for various projects which include park expansion, resource protection, alien vegetation clearing and other operations; R75,9 million from the City of Cape Town for various agreed on projects including crime prevention and damage causing animals control; and R54,5 million from various donors and funders for various interventions including fire management) the national park has been able over the years to show a cumulative surplus of R155,8 million whereas in real terms it has sustained a cumulative deficit of R78,5 million.

The income for the national park has been driven by gate collections from Boulders beach and Cape Point, collections for filming and photography in the park and most recently accommodation for trails in the park.

"It should be noted that instead of cross subsidising other national parks in the Western Cape or nationally the TMNP cash generating points and activities are used to cross-subsidise the citizens who are able to enter the park free of charge." said Dr Mabunda.

Whereas conservation entities can derive some revenue from tourism activities, biodiversity management on its own can never make a monetary profit and will continue depending on funding from the state and other related sources including tourism revenue. The biggest expenditure for this national park continues to be fire management, crime prevention, anti-poaching, infrastructure development and upgrades, alien vegetation clearing and personnel.

The encroachment of human settlements on the park make this park one of the most complicated and difficult to manage, due to clashes of land use objectives for the various neighbours. TMNP is the only South African national park that is entirely surrounded by urban settlements, whereas most are in remote areas, and so it is fragmented and sometimes even adversely affected by urban development and privately owned land.

Baboon-human Conflict

To date the national park has been plagued by continued baboon-human conflict, escalating crime affecting visitors to the park and runaway fires; all problems closely associated with the park's close proximity to human settlements.

Schedule 4 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa (on Functional Areas of Concurrent National and Provincial Legislative Competence) states that nature conservation, excluding national parks, national botanical gardens and marine resources is a concurrent responsibility. The competence and jurisdiction of a national body like SANParks is confined inside the defined borders of its management authority, in this case it is national parks or declared protected areas.

rovincial and local conservation bodies have the legislated mandate of managing biodiversity and wildlife outside of demarcated protected areas or environments. Various other local and national bodies like the SAPS have also been canvassed to form lasting working relationships so as to combat the other challenges which have an impact on human safety such as crime and fire management. "SANParks has no intention of taking over the responsibilities of other spheres of government", said Dr Mabunda.

The TMNP, originally known as the Cape Peninsula National Park, was established as a result of a transfer of land to the management of SANParks, which was at the time owned by several local municipalities in the area in their recognition of the national iconic status of the Cape Peninsula Protected Natural Environment (CPPNE), and later its world renowned natural heritage status as part of the Cape Floristic Kingdom World Heritage Site.

Agreement on the establishment of a national park in the Cape Peninsula was concluded in 1996, when the Minister of Land Affairs announced that ownership of all conservation worthy state land within the CPPNE would be formerly transferred to SANParks. The announcement by the minister was then formerly endorsed by cabinet in the same year.

In 1998 SANParks and the local authorities which owned the land, i.e. Cape Metropolitan Council, the Cape Town Municipality and the South Peninsula Municipality, reached the final agreement which had as a main objective the transfer of the control and ownership of the land to SANParks and its proclamation as a national park.

SANParks has been the management authority for this area, and has through various funding agreements with government and private entities as well as formal agreements of cooperation expanded the original area (27,700ha) under protection to what it is today (28,988ha), excluding the 956 kmĀ² of recently added marine protected area. "We have done well in enhancing the reputation and image of TMNP nationally and internationally", said Dr Mabunda.

The TMNP was proclaimed under the National Parks Act 57 of 1976 as amended, which has been repealed, effectively giving it a Schedule II status of protection in line with the IUCN-World Conservation Union's classification of national parks.

The withdrawal of the national park status of any national park may be done only through the National Assembly or the Minister in charge of SA National Parks as contained in section 21 of the National Environmental Management: Protected Areas Act 57 of 2003 as amended.

In the case of national parks which have been established through agreements of transfer of land or management responsibility with other spheres of government, disagreements or disputes will be ultimately resolved through the application of Chapter 3 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa.

The relationship and effective cooperation between organs of state is further defined in sections 146, 147 and 156 of the Constitution. These are the channels that will be open to the City of Cape Town if indeed it is true that the municipality is intending to change the status of TMNP.

SANParks continues to enjoy unconditional support with the people of Cape Town and the City Authorities on the management of the TMNP in line with the provisions of the Constitution and applicable legislation that governs the activities of the organization, said Dr Mabunda.

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