World Heritage Inscription 2018

Barberton Makhonjwa Mountains receive World Heritage inscription

At its 42nd sitting, in Manama, Bahrain from 24 June to 4 July 2018, the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation’s (UNESCO’s) World Heritage Committee inscribed the Barberton Makhonjwa Mountains on the prestigious World Heritage list.

The Barberton Makhonjwa Mountains, covering an area of 113 137 ha, is located in the south-eastern corner of Mpumalanga province in South Africa. It comprises 40% of the Barberton Greenstone Belt, the oldest and best preserved sequence of volcanic and sedimentary rocks on earth, containing a unique record of the early formation of the planet and a host of endemic and exceptionally rich diversity of plant species, all set in spectacular scenery. It is South Africa’s 10th World Heritage Site and Mpumalanga province’s first.

The World Heritage site includes the whole of Songimvelo, Nkomazi, Queens River and Barberton Private Nature Reserves as well as the majority of Mountainlands Nature Reserve. Also included are the timber growing properties that lie between these protected areas and two enclaves of private and communal land in the Komati valley. For more details and maps click here…

This inscription is the culmination of over twelve years of hard work and determination, from the time that work began to get the site on UNESCO’s tentative list in 2006. This was followed by years of consultations, negotiations and technical work to compile the Nomination Dossier.

Part of the South African delegation on arrival in Bahrain.


Great teamwork brings success

A twenty five member South African delegation attended the World Heritage Committee meeting in Bahrain. The delegation consisted of political leaders, diplomatic staff, community and landowner representatives as well as officials from the various departments and organisations that worked on the nomination. Back home it was supported by a dedicated team of officials, consultants, technical advisers and international scientists. Most important though, and weighing heavily on the minds of the delegation, was the unwavering support and aspirations of the local communities and indeed Mpumalanga province and South Africa.

Team South Africa on the first day of the meeting, preparing and lobbying member countries.

On the last day of the meeting, on 2 July when South Africa’s agenda point came up for discussion, Barberton Makhonjwa Mountains was unanimously voted in by UNESCO member states. To their collective relief, the delegation in Bahrain and those watching the live streaming, could finally celebrate the inscription.

This World Heritage inscription is both the culmination of a new vision and the beginning of a new era for the greater Barberton region. The newfound status not only brings international recognition but also helps ensure protection of the area in perpetuity, for all mankind. With this comes new economic potentials which will be unlocked through careful planning and development to benefit the people of the region.

“Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much” Helen Keller, a leading humanitarian of her time once said. This is true for the extended team behind the Barberton Makhonjwa Mountains inscription on the World Heritage list. What was once only a dream, was accomplished through dedication, professionalism, excellent teamwork and galvanizing the resolve of many.

The moment after Barberton Makhonjwa Mountains was unanimously voted in by member states.

Mpumalanga MEC for Finance, Economic Development and Tourism Mr. Eric Kholwane and President of Barberton Chamber of Business, Mr. Nico Oosthuizen, congratulating each other on the inscription.

Team South Africa debriefing afterwards and reflecting on the way forward.