At a glamorous “Green Tie Affair” at Gallagher Estate on Thursday night (25 June 2009), hosted by South African National Parks (SANParks), individuals and groups who had contributed significantly to conservation were honoured with the prestigious Kudu Award. In attendance were the new Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, Ms Buyelwa Sonjica and the new Chairperson of the Board of SANParks, Mr Kuseni Dlamini, among others.
The Kudu Awards, running for the fifth year, recognises external stakeholders for their contributions and efforts to conservation as well their assistance in making SANParks a premier conservation agency in South Africa. “It aims at enhancing equitable and sustainable relationships with various external communities with a particular caring interest to the national parks of our country,” said SANParks Chief Executive Dr David Mabunda.
In his welcome address, Dr Mabunda outlined the growth of the Kudu Awards from its inception in 2005 especially looking at the quality of entries that had been received this year as compared to the years before. “From the first Kudu Awards when we honoured people who had contributed to conservation but with more of an emphasis on SANParks, to today when we are honouring people from all over South Africa, including the two provinces we do not have a footprint in, which is KZN and the North West Province, the bar is consistently being raised,” he said.
A record number of 32 category entries were received this year and a total of 19 individuals, companies, journalists and media institutions made it to the finalists.
Dr Mabunda made a special mention of the type of individuals and organisations who are recipients of the award. “What is also of great importance is to notice that a number of the winners are not only from affluent projects with lots of cash injection but are grassroots interventions with very little or no resources. These are the projects that personally I am most proud of and hope that the exposure and recognition they get in this prestigious platform will assist them in attracting sponsors who may help to grow the interventions and the impact in our communities.”
In her keynote address, Minister Buyelwa Sonjica highlighted the importance of national parks, saying that they are the “cornerstone for the preservation and conservation of the natural history of our country and the world.” She also likened the status of national parks to that of the national flag and the national anthem. “They are definitely an important symbol in the uniqueness of our country’s natural and cultural heritage,” she said.
Minister Sonjica also said that what is heartening for her, attending her very first Kudu Awards, is that among the entrants and winners there are community members and groups who give of their time to improve the state of the environment in their respective areas. “The fact that through the Kudu Award we are honouring people who have of their own decided to make a meaningful contribution to the protection of our environment through various means is reflection to a society with admirable social responsibility. With such a positive attitude and approach to our challenges South Africa cannot help but forge forward with great success,” said Minister Sonjica.
Included in the Kudu Awards function is the Chief Executive’s Award presented to SANParks employees who contribute to the excellence of the organisation. The SANParks Business Development Unit (BDU) was awarded Division of the Year for their contribution to the business income and growth of SANParks. They were lauded for their contribution to socio economic benefits such as job creation; skills transfers and environmental benefits. SANParks’ association with MATCH for accommodation during the FIFA World Cup 2010 has been driven by the BDU and they are integral to the development of a unique product for the World Cup that will be launched on 14 July 2009.
A special Lifetime Contribution Award was presented to 79-year-old Sergeant Charlie Nkuna who spent 41 years as an employee at the Kruger National Park and still continued for 3 years after his retirement to serve as a research assistant at the Scientific Services section. “Baba Charlie”, who was involved in many key projects including the apprehension of poachers during his uninterrupted service at KNP, received this honour to a rousing standing ovation.
While the night was dedicated to conservation and all things green, guests pledged their support for the boys in green and gold, Bafana Bafana, who were playing their 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup soccer match against Brazil that night too. SANParks screened the second half of the game for guests during the Awards programme and even though South Africa was defeated, the spirit of success ran strong at the venue.
Reynold “Rey” Thakhuli, General Manager: Media, Events and Stakeholder Relations, Tel: 012 426 5203 / 083 552 2020, firstname.lastname@example.org
Ms. wanda mkutshulwa, Head of Communications, South African National Parks, Tel: 012 426 5201, Cell: 082 908 2692, E-mail: email@example.com