Address by President Nelson Mandela at the launch of the Kruger National Park centenary celebrations, Skukuza

26 March 1998

Your Royal Highnesses;
Cabinet Ministers and Provincial Premiers;
Chief Executive Officer of the National Parks Board;
Distinguished guests;
Amakhosi, Bayede!

Conservation in its nature is directed both to the past and the future, to preserving our heritage and ensuring that it benefits generations to come.

So it is a great pleasure to celebrate the centenary of this premier conservation area with men and women whose decisions and actions will be critical to its future.

We are also proud to welcome our visitors from abroad and representatives of governments from so many countries. For we are aware that we are entrusted with a priceless asset that is valued not only by our own people, but by our region and people across the world.

In commemorating this historic day, we do not forget those who had to surrender their land to make it possible, often through forcible removal, nor those who for generations were denied access to their heritage except as poorly rewarded labour.

We recall these threads in our history not to decry the foresight of those who established the park, nor to diminish our enjoyment of it. We do so rather to reaffirm our commitment that the rural communities in and around our parks should also benefit from our natural heritage, and find in it an opportunity for their development.

Tourism occupies a strategic place in our overall strategy for reconstruction and development. The rapid growth of this sector since our country was freed from apartheid confirms our confidence that tourism is destined to play a critical role in earning much-needed foreign exchange and creating jobs. It can help produce wealth which will strengthen our efforts to provide clean water, electricity, health-care and adequate housing to those who have been so long denied these basic amenities.

Such assets as the Kruger National Park and our many other parks and tourist attractions, if developed within a framework of regional co-operation, can make a major contribution not only to our own country but to the whole of Southern Africa. Visitors who come to experience the wonders of this park are in easy reach of many spectacular offerings elsewhere in our region.

In this regard it is satisfying to learn of the progress in discussions with Mozambican authorities to establish a single Park that links our countries and our peoples. That would be a victory not only for more cohesive management of our region's ecology, but a concrete symbol of regional unity and a spur to development.

If we are to succeed in fully realising the potential of eco-tourism to contribute to development, it will be by embracing the spirit of partnership that underlies all our achievements as a newly liberated nation.

A new generation of leaders has the responsibility for enhancing conservation and public service standards. Theirs is the task of bringing together all stakeholders in a broad partnership.

Rural communities not only have the opportunity now to become involved as entrepreneurs. They can also be active agents in meaningful programmes of conservation and environmental community education. In so doing they will contribute to the sustainable use of our environment, and at the same time dispel the myth that this is a preserve of a rich elite. These efforts will be strengthened by co-operation between communities, conservation authorities and private operators.

The private sector, whose generosity was made this event possible, has a major role to play, whether it be through: the promotion of conservation; direct assistance in the upliftment of communities neighbouring on parks; or as business with an interest in the sustainable growth of the industry.

Our guests from beyond our borders represent an international community that played a crucial role in making it possible for South Africans to join hands with each other in re-building our country. Our own efforts to preserve our natural heritage and develop it for the benefit of all our citizens will depend also on you support and co-operation.

Whether it is through contributions to international conservation efforts; as investors; or as tourists enjoying our sunny beaches and our rich cultural and natural heritage, you are part of our endeavours to create a better life for all our people.

Long may continue as partners for conservation and development.

I thank you.

Issued by: Office of the President

Source: South African Government Information Website