With the release of the draft Tokai Cecilia Management Framework (TCMF) Implementation Plan just three days away, stakeholders and interested parties are holding their breath to see how South Africa’s National Parks (SANParks) will incorporate the sometimes conflicting recommendations that emerged from a public participation process that began last year.
Over the past month, the organizers of the TCMF review process – Professor Wendy Foden and Dr Howard Hendricks – have considered detailed proposals submitted by seven working groups as they drafted the implementation plan.
According to Lauren Clayton, regional communications manager for SANParks, the organizers were assisted by an external service provider facilitating the targeted workshops “and their outcomes”.
“The draft implementation plan will incorporate all submissions, proposals and suggested actions from the working group. These are assessed against SANParks’ terms of reference and against the various working group submissions. Where conflicts exist, SANParks will provide alternatives that seek to resolve the differences,” says Clayton.
The working groups were part of the second phase of the facilitation process which began just under a year ago.
Comprised of stakeholders and SANParks representatives, they included the Biodiversity Management Working Group, Communications Working Group, Cultural Heritage Management Working Group, Facilities Working Group, the Fire Management Working Group, the Human Welfare Working Group and the Security Working Group and Security Working Group.
On Monday, February 21, a consolidated summary of the groups’ recommendations was posted on the SANParks website.
While there were synergies between the groups, there were also those whose recommendations were on opposite ends of the spectrum when it came to fynbos and shadow.
A cursory glance at the inner workings of just one of these working groups – the History and Cultural Heritage Workshop (HCHW) – provides some insight into the debate that exists, not only between the groups, but sometimes even within each group.
Dr. Berta van Rooyen, who holds a doctorate in Tokai Park history, was chosen as the host of HCHW by her fellow group members.
Each organizer was supported by a SANParks staff member when information about SANParks or the use of its infrastructure was needed.
Van Rooyen says the HCHW’s task was to assess stakeholder feedback that referred to history and heritage issues using “historical methodology.”
“Where appropriate, issues were either substantiated and expanded with information or dismissed if there was no substantial evidence to support claims, assumptions or presentations in stakeholder feedback,” she says. .
She adds that a list of heritage markers was provided to SANParks early last year. The list indicated strata of periods of history with accompanying cultural landmarks, officially declared natural heritage and heritage sites in the built environment.
“The layers refer to periods from before colonization to the current era, but with specific reference to the central heritage marker – the natural heritage of Tokai Cecilia,” explains Van Rooyen.
She explains that when an area is declared a Protected Area, the natural heritage is predominant but without neglecting the cultural heritage and its preservation. When an area is declared a cultural heritage area, the cultural heritage is dominant, such as any agriculture, farm, settlement, or mining town or community.
She says that it is not possible to declare Tokai Cecilia as a natural and cultural landscape because it is already a declared protected area due to the dominant “natural features” (World Heritage Convention Act).
“Land use (cultural activities) has made fynbos a cultural marker. In fact, vineyards, forestry, exotic tree-lined streets, recreation and urbanization threaten the very existence of the fynbos that grow on the Cape Peninsula,” says Van Rooyen.
Paddy Attwell, who holds the heritage portfolio for the voluntary non-profit organization, Parkscape, presents a different view. Attwell, who participated in the review process in his personal capacity as an informed citizen, was originally a member of the HCHW task force. However, he quit the HCHW working group after he allegedly rejected his submission on the region’s cultural landscape. He then joined the Health and Wellness Task Force which included his report in their submissions to SANParks.
Attwell believes that Tokai and Cecilia form a substantial part of the Constantia-Tokai Valley which is recognized as a cultural landscape of local, national and international significance.
“Tokai and Cecilia cannot be seen in isolation from the valley as a whole. They have contributed significantly to the Arcadian, woodland and rural character of the valley for many generations,” he says.
Attwell states that, according to UNESCO, cultural landscapes reflect “the combined works of nature and humanity”.
“Leading heritage practitioners and official reports have described the valley’s cultural landscape as an irreplaceable national asset. According to these studies, the setting of this cultural landscape includes mountainous scenery and wilderness areas, forests, farms, notable building complexes, models of human settlements, waterways and scenic drives,” explains Attwell.
He adds that SANParks initially accepted forestry in Tokai and Cecilia when it took over those areas from the Forestry Department.
“SANParks informed UNESCO that they were engaged in negotiations to include Tokai and Cecilia State Forests in the Cape Peninsula National Park, ‘to be managed as part of the national park’, during the application for World Heritage Site status in 2004.
“Any suggestion that forestry is not permitted in terms of this listing is incorrect. Mixed use, including forestry, is fully compatible with UNESCO’s policy on buffer zones around World Heritage sites,” says Attwell.
With the historical periods examined dating back to pre-colonial times, when the land was used by the first landowners, the San, this was never going to be an easy task. But while there have been many points of contention along the timeline, the one that has seemingly caused the most debate dates back to the 90s – The Fuggle Report of c.1994.
The summary of the group’s recommendations published on the SANParks website states that the HCHW proposal “refers in terms of recent heritage, where the notion of cultural landscapes is discussed and discouraged, while acceptance of the World Heritage site of the Cape Floral Region as a natural site The site is encouraged.
The question here is to know what is meant by “natural site”.
The Fuggle Report views vineyards and rows of exotic trees and commercial forestry as natural landscapes distinct from cultural landscapes.
Van Rooyen says that is not correct.
“The Fuggle report was written when South Africa was still banned from all United Nations activities. One of the report’s many demands was apparently that a national law be drafted to bind the then National Parks Board to the co-governance of the new Cape Peninsula National Park as a World Heritage area. which would include the great valley of Constantia and the southern peninsula. This law was never drafted. In fact, the first person responsible for the agreement with the Cape Town Municipality omitted the Tokai Forest Station land from the agreement.
South Africa’s readmission to UN status followed in the late 1990s.
Van Rooyen said, regardless of the new legislation, the government requested by the extension of the lands of nomination in 2015 by including vineyard lands on the borders of Tokai Park.
“It had to be taken off the list because the vines did not grow there naturally. Therefore, vineyards and all other exotic plants referencing fynbos are considered by the UN to ‘lack the integrity’ of fynbos’ fundamental heritage status: natural,” she adds.
Attwell regards this reflection on the Fuggle report as “inaccurate”.
He explains that the Fuggle and Huntley reports formed the basis of the lease agreement between the city and SANParks for the municipal land allocated to Table Mountain National Park.
“The Fuggle Report is the result of extensive public consultation and accurately reflects what the City expected from the park,” says Attwell.
The report recommended the creation of a Cape Peninsula Heritage Area (CPHA) in what would become Table Mountain National Park, from Table Mountain to Cape Point.
According to the report, CPHA should celebrate diversity in all its forms, including biological, cultural and landscape diversity.
“Ultimately, this approach was not adopted, which reflects an important missed opportunity. The Fuggle Report was well ahead of its time and could yet be the starting point for a more balanced approach to managing an urban national park,” says Attwell.
The HCHW group recommended that, “to keep a balance”, certain recreational activities should be revisited and reconsidered.
“Such as the paddocks of the front sub-prefecture causing enormous damage to the ground, the downhill cycle paths dividing the slopes, the walkers causing enormous erosion of the heritage canal along the lower plantation and the removal of pine trees next to Tokai (Dennendal) and suburb of Sweet Valley,” says Van Rooyen.
She adds that year-round recreation prevents the environment from recovering.
“The Fynbos remains a marker of natural and cultural heritage, the territory is declared a protected area. And the cultural markers must be preserved and prevented from falling into disrepair,” says Van Rooyen.
Attwell says SANParks’ vision for Table Mountain National Park is “a park for everyone.”
“This assumes intensive use of the park for recreation, and appropriate management of the impact, with the cooperation of park users.”
It remains to be seen how the recommendations of the working groups will be incorporated into the draft implementation plan. The draft will be made available for a 30-day public comment period.