On the northern border of Limpopo, the Mapungubwe National Park was declared a World Heritage Site in 2003. As a signatory to the World Heritage Convention, South Africa has agreed to protect the area for the benefit of all the people of the world.
The area has a rich biodiversity. Within the national park there are 26 species that are on the international Red List of plants that have a high risk of becoming extinct. Over 400 types of birds have been recorded, included Pel’s Fishing Owl and the Martial Eagle. Large mammals such as eland, kudu, giraffe and elephant cross the Limpopo River, moving between Botswana, Zimbabwe and South Africa.
The Mapungubwe cultural landscape tells the story of a southern African kingdom between AD900 and 1300, and the way of life of the San and Khoekhoe people thousands of years ago.
Mapungubwe Hill, is the site of an ancient city that was once an important trading route between north and east Africa, China and India. Southern African gold and iron objects, ivory carvings, ostrich eggshells and pottery were traded for glass beads, cloth and other goods from far away countries.
A golden rhino, one of the archaeological treasures of Mapungubwe
A San rock painting over 1000 years old
All this is at risk from pollution from proposed mining activities. Coal of Africa Ltd has already started activities 5.4 km from the border of the Mapungubwe National Park without a water license and without completing all Environmental Impact Assessment processes. See: http://earthlife.org.za/?p=1092
The dire state of South Africa’s rivers, especially the Vaal, indicates that the government is unable to effectively implement environmental laws related to water. As of June 2010, it has also failed to deal effectively with acid mine drainage from past mining activities around Johannesburg, despite scientific reports warning of the current crisis since 1996. For years acid mine water has been flowing underground into the area around another World Heritage Site, the Cradle of Humankind, about 50 km from Johannesburg. The rock formations in the caves where the archaeological remains of our human ancestors were found are at risk of being destroyed by the acid water.