The Bakgalaka people of Phalaborwa in Limpopo have welcomed the decision by South African National Parks (SANParks) to recognize and preserve their heritage site. SANParks launched Mt Tikumbu at Kruger National Park Gate 1 to make the historic hill accessible to the public.
The hill was home to the Bakgalaka people who moved to the area from Zimbabwe in 1658 under the leadership of Chief Thangagara.
The recognition is also part of SANParks Free Week, when citizens get free access to some of its facilities. The Bakgalaka community say the recognition gives them hope that their heritage will be preserved.
SANParks says it has for many years granted access to the descendants of the Bakgalaka people to perform rituals on the hill, but from now on members of the public will also have access to visit the sacred site.
Motsatso Mokgalaka, who is one of the beneficiaries, says: “What SANParks has done here reassures us that this is indeed our land, it gives us hope that one day we will reap the benefits of the minerals found here that were forcibly taken from us.”
On top of the hill are three tombs of three chiefs, including chief Bakgalaki Tongagari.
This year a historical milestone was reached. The community, however, bemoans the delays by the Land Claims Commission in recognizing them as the rightful owners of the land.
“We are still fighting, the commissioners don’t want to publicize our land for some reason we don’t know, on June 24, 25 and 26 last year, we came here with them to show them the estates. So we showed them everything, we went up and showed them the ruins, the old houses,” explains Mokgalaka.
SANParks wants to use this year’s Mahala Week to show visitors that the Kruger National Park has a lot more to offer in addition to the Big Five.
“For us at SANParks, it’s not just access for people who come to see the elephants and other animals, we have a rich cultural heritage in this park and on this hill where we are today, it’s one of those elements of cultural heritage that we appear. now exposed to the general public,” explains SANParks Thabo Kgamommu.
SANParks used this year’s Parks Week, where citizens get free access to the facilities, to showcase its many heritage sites.
National Parks Week begins on September 12, 2022: