Mapungubwe: the hazard of disused fences

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Johan van Rensburg
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Mapungubwe: the hazard of disused fences

Unread post by Johan van Rensburg »

I had my first experiences with the area that would become the Mapungubwe NP way before it was declared a conservation area.

In April 1970 120 young conscripts from the 4th Field Artillery Training Regiment, 41 battery, found themselves in the hills overlooking the confluence of the Limpopo and Shase Rivers as trailblazers that would establish a military camp. As a fresh-faced 17-year-old this was an adventure of epic proportions for me, actually playing a part in building a facility in the wilderness of the African bush on the top of a “mountain” overlooking both Zimbabwe and Botswana. The military base would be named after the farm on which the camp was built: Greefswald.

By August 1970 when we returned to Potchefstroom we left behind a fully functional camp with 15 odd bungalows each capable of housing 12 troops, an officer’s mess, parade grounds, helipad and even a rudimentary swimming pool.

The swimming pool came about after an overzealous genie corps blaster came to sort out a problem with the road we built up the side of the hill; there was this nasty bump in the road that needed flattening out for the milk delivering Gladiator kept on loosing its load in spite of troops accompanying the delivery – that hill always took its toll with at least one milk can toppling over. The blaster first turned the convex problem in the road into a concave solution then proceeded to cortex-chop a few unwanted trees around camp before excavating a hole near the officers mess which would in later years serve as the camp swimming pool.

I heard murmurs of Greefswald having been turned into a facility to rehabilitate troops with drug problems. It was only much later that the full horror of the military psychiatrist, Colonel Bubbles Levin, who “fixed” inmates with sexual and drug problems with a grotesque and unethical combination of drug and electroshock therapy was revealed.

Anyhow, a few years ago I got visit the area again, this time in its new guise as the Greater Mapungubwe Transfrontier Conservation Area. Firstly I had to see the stomping grounds of my border stint and the old army camp was quite high on my agenda. Disappointment and shock ruled as I couldn’t orientate myself: all signs of the old camp had been removed. I sauntered around looking for signs of the five months I spent there. Nothing remained. Every piece of evidence that there had been the Greefswald camp had been removed. Even the swimmingpool had been filled in.

The birding wasn’t too bad though. So, this September I decided to celebrate my 68th birthday in this national park, my fifth visit since 2009. There is a long stretch of track along the Limpopo River which I had previously travelled along, getting to see a number of Mapungubwe birding specials. This year it was rather dry with vegetation down to bare sticks and maybe that is why the razor wire fence stood out so prominently. It had to have been there during my previous visits, but I had failed to spot this terrible hazard.

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Firstly it is an eyesore. Secondly the question pops up in my mind: why has this “fence” not been removed? Afterall, a MOU was signed by all parties involved with the establishment of the Greater Mapungubwe Transfrontier Conservation Area in 2006.

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The “fence” is showing years of neglect. It does not serve to keep anything in or out. It should have been removed a long time ago as part of the MOU agreement to remove the fences that separate properties and to jointly manage wildlife resources.

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This was a scene along the disused international fence that filled me with trepidation... Animals have no sense of the danger hidden in this maze of razor wire.

On the last day of our visit we chanced upon this horror…

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The inevitable... we couldn't follow up to see what transpired, but I can in the least imagine vultures, jackal and hyena getting injured...

Is there any justification for getting to see dereliction of concervation duty 14 years down the line?
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RayK
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Re: Mapungubwe: the hazard of disused fences

Unread post by RayK »

Hi Johan van Rensburg,
Thank you for your excellent report on a fence that should have been dismantled years ago but for lack of good reason is still there. I've been to Mapungubwe a number of times but never knew that fence existed. So SANParks, when is that hazard being taken away?
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Re: Mapungubwe: the hazard of disused fences

Unread post by hilda »

Very sad and absolutely shocking Johan! I really hope something is going to be done about it before more animals are trapped and hurt. :cry: :cry:
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Re: Mapungubwe: the hazard of disused fences

Unread post by barryels »

I totally agree with you that the "fence" does not serve any purpose other than to endanger and kill wildlife. Its seems as if the original fence was only pulled down and then replaced by a monstrosity of 3 layers of barbed razor wire that does not conform with any approved wildlife fencing principals.
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Re: Mapungubwe: the hazard of disused fences

Unread post by NicoleCT »

Let's keep this thread alive.

Dear Sanparks - when will the useless dangerous fence be removed ?

Maybe the writer of initial post should change heading to ALERT Sanparks accordingly.

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Re: Mapungubwe: the hazard of disused fences

Unread post by squirrel_asc »

When we were there, February 2019, we also saw this fence, as well as several other damaged and disused fences cris-crossing the Western section of the park, for no apparent reason.

I would also love to get an explanation from Sanparks about this. I really feel that if these fences have a purpose, they should be repaired and maintained so that they can serve that purpose. If not, they must be completely removed.

If they want to leave up a section of the old border fence to serve as a sort of monument/reminder of what was, that is fine, but then it should be done in a way that - again - does not endanger the wildlife!
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Re: Mapungubwe: the hazard of disused fences

Unread post by Elsa »

Mapungubwe management have been alerted and informed.
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Re: Mapungubwe: the hazard of disused fences

Unread post by Johan van Rensburg »

Thanks for the heads up, Elsa. Do you think an official response from Mapungubwe management is likely to be published? “Alerted” and “informed” are words suggesting Mapungubwe management would not be aware of the fencing hazard... :hmz:

If any response is made, it would be useful to link up with this thread. I’m sure ‘mites will now keep a finger on the pulse to monitor initiatives and progress of any intervention.
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Re: Mapungubwe: the hazard of disused fences

Unread post by Elsa »

“Alerted” and “informed” are words suggesting Mapungubwe management would not be aware of the fencing hazard

......means of this post on the forum Johan.

as to whether there would be an official response, I cannot say.

Can I suggest you send your findings and pics in an e-mail to
[email protected].

Thanks.
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Re: Mapungubwe: the hazard of disused fences

Unread post by T Bird »

I went to Mapungubwe for the first time in the beginning of November and was shocked to see that dilapidated deathtrap! The overall state of the the western part of the park left a bad taste in the mouth. Of the once fabled Limpopo forest tented camp, neither forest nor inhabitable tent remain. Large scale destruction of trees by hungry elephants looking for food, left the landscape looking like a scene from a WW2 movie. But we only saw elephants outside the "fenced" areas, were conflict on privately owed citrus farms are unavoidable.

In the eastern part of the park, cattle and donkeys roam freely to the incessant ringing of cowbells. While sightings of people crossing the border, collecting water and herding cattle are frequent.

On Sundays no services are rendered. The shop, restaurant and museum was closed. No tours were conducted and the chalets were not cleaned, only the gate personnel was working.

Instead of feeling recharged and rejuvenated after visiting a sanparks facility, I left there appalled and with a deep concern as to the fate of those poor animals.
It is safe to say I will not be going back there shortly. But I want to encourage you to go there and witness this firsthand. If more people raise their concern, something might be done to rectify what is happening there. Before yet another piece of (what should be) pristine wilderness is lost forever.
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Re: Mapungubwe: the hazard of disused fences

Unread post by Elsa »

T Bird, as I have suggested in my previous post please do raise your concerns in detail as you have here to
[email protected] and from where there the correct departments will be notified and steps taken.
I do hope Johan van Rensburg has done the same.
Many thanks.
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