mapungubwe under threat: mining will offend our ancestors

Submitted by incoming on Tue, 2011-08-02 12:41

Government recently granted mining rights to an Australian company to mine next to Mapungubwe, a World Heritage Site. Support the coalition group (including EWT, Birdlife Africa, WWF, Peace Parks foundation) opposing the mine at or

Vele Neluvhalani thinks mining near Mapungubwe will be “an offence to our ancestors” and believes that on a fundamental level, people have always been connected to the earth, visible by the traces they leave behind, like the ancient rock art on the sandstone outcrops in Mapungubwe.

Neluvhalani feels a deep connection to this ancient place, because his ancestors lived there thousands of years before him. He is bound to the area not only by tradition, but when he visits there and climbs to the top of Mapungubwe hill, he feels he has returned home.

However, the announcement that authorisation has been given to an Australian mining company called Coal of Africa Limited (CoAL) to construct an open-cast mine just outside the boundaries of the Mapungubwe National Park will change all this. This is because Neluvhalani believes that “it would be an offence to our ancestors to start mining in the area.”

Neluvhalani was involved in the reburying of his ancestors’ remains at Mapungubwe, after they were recently reclaimed from a museum collection and restored to their rightful place.

“Once we tamper with Mapungubwe we will be tampering with the past,” says Neluvhalani, who feels that the ties we have to our ancient places like Mapungubwe compel us to prevent them from being compromised, and that “everyone in South Africa should be united to help preserve Mapungubwe”.

Mapungubwe was the capital city of a flourishing African kingdom 1 000 years ago and was one of 24 sites around the world added to UNESCO's World Heritage List in 2004. It is a natural treasure holding the history of 50 000 years of human development and contains priceless archaeological and paleontological treasures.

The area encompassed by the Mapungubwe Cultural Landscape World Heritage Site includes rock art sites, Early, Middle and Later Stone Age sites and Iron Age sites and reflects southern Africa’s complex history. This is why the area has been declared a “Cultural Landscape” and informs us about the long history of human interaction in this part of southern Africa.

The information held by Mapungubwe is important to all of us, because like the people at Mapungubwe, we are facing various social and environmental crises today. People in this area interacted, co-operated and fought with one another long before South Africa was colonised, and understanding the history held here can shape the way that we interact with one another today.

Visit to hear Vele Neluvhalani’s views on Mapungubwe.
Find out more about the campaign to Save Mapungubwe at
Join the Save Mapungubwe community on Facebook -

The Save Mapungubwe Coalition Group aims to prevent any further development of the intended opencast and underground coal mine that is to be located near Mapungubwe, a World Heritage Site.
The Coalition Group believes that mining should be conducted in a responsible manner and not within an area where there are better, sustainable options for land use. The Coalition Group, which consists of local community members and experts within the heritage and conservation fields, further believe that certain areas should not be considered for mining where such activities threaten the integrity of irreplaceable South African natural and cultural heritage.
The Coalition Group consists of a number of civil society organisations, namely:
the Association of Southern African Professional Archaeologists (ASAPA),
BirdLife South Africa (BLSA),
the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT),
the Mapungubwe Action Group (MAG),
the Peace Parks Foundation (PPF),
the Wilderness Foundation South Africa (WFSA), and
the World Wide Fund for Nature (South Africa) (WWF).

The Coalition is currently appealing the mining right granted by the Department of Mineral Resources as well as the associated approval of the Environmental Management Programme. The Coalition further launched interdict proceedings to stop CoAL from carrying on any mining or related operations on the Vele site, lodged a notice of intention to appeal the environmental authorisation granted to CoAL by the Department of Environmental Affairs in the first s.24G application for rectification of illegal activities and lodged an appeal against the water use licence granted to Limpopo Coal in March 2011.

For more information, please contact:
EWT Media Office
011 372 3600

Green Renaissance was tasked with filming a series of clips for the Save Mapungubwe Coalition. The idea was to showcase the beauty of this World Heritage Site using timelapse photographs and motion controlled images. Each timelapse is made up of 3000 photos, which were taken using DSLR cameras, and have been stitched together to create a film that gives an insight to the epic scale of the landscape.

The film series is made up of three videos, which were shot in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Botswana respectively. Each video tells the story of three individual characters, and emphasizes that Mapungubwe is a shared space, as the World Heritage Site falls within the Greater Mapungubwe Transfrontier Conservation Area.

The films showcase each one of the three character’s perspectives on Mapungubwe, and shows how each of them is deeply connection to the landscape and its unique history. The way in which each one of them is connected to this ancient place is shown through their interaction with the environment, which could be irreparably compromised by nearby mining.