Over-grazed veldt this side of the river and cane-fields the other, with the Sibudu Site in between.

ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING - 26 August 2017

CHAIRPERSONS REPORT

Committee Meetings:

Committee – Derek Nicholson; Noreen Ramsden; Gordon Tomlinson; Charlotte Mbali; Jean Senogles; Mapaseka Matsime; Christine Sole; and Ken Lever. Noreen hosted all thirteen committee meetings held this year, at her house, and took and typed the minutes – thank you Noreen.  Gordon took over as Treasurer at the 2016 AGM as Jean Stevenson had moved to Cape Town– thank you Gordon.

 Barbara resigned from the Trust and the FoS Committee to concentrate on her UNISA studies. Barbara was the liaison between the FoS and the Trust. Thank you Barbara for your input; and congratulations for your success at UNISA.

 Jean Senogles and Mapaseka Matsime joined the committee at the 2016 AGM, and Ken Lever was co-opted during the year to lead the Ballito Chapter.

 The rest of this report is summarized as follows:

  • The status of FoS as an NPO,
  • FoS relationship with the Trust and the Archaeologists,
  • Education – public and schools,
  • Promotion of Sibudu as a tourist attraction, the Ballito Chapter, and
  • The declaration of Sibudu as a National Heritage site.

 

  • Status of Friends of Sibudu

This is best described as “on-going”; in other words we are not yet established as an NPO. We have had to make some minor changes to the constitution to comply with the necessary requirements, and we expect to finalize this during the next year.

  •  Relationship with Sibudu Trust and the Archaeologists

The Sibudu Trust consists of Prof Conard, and lawyersSiyabonga Mkhizeand Simon Chetwynd-Palmer.

The Trust is concerned with what is called the “core site” and they are presently in negotiations with the land owner to buy (about 4 hectares) of land on which the site is situated. This requires the declassification of the agricultural status of the land – and hence is a drawn out process.

 The party of archaeologists, led by Prof Conard arrived 20 February and left 20 March. This was a shorter period than last year, and on some days digging activity was interrupted by rain. No visits to the site were possible, and there was no talk arranged by the local Archaeological Society.

Manual Will gave a talk at the “Green Door” organized by the Life Long Learning Association, of which Charlotte is the Chairperson. (The takings at this talk were donated to FoS and covered exactly the expenses incurred in conducting a teachers’ workshop in Tongaat.)

Manual Will also spoke at the breakfast meeting attended by prominent members of the Ballito business community. This meeting was arranged by Ken Lever.

Two members of the archaeological team, working on their post-graduate studies, gave a talk at Danville Girls High, arranged by Jean; and another two were also involved in the workshop at Tongaat.

 FoS will contact the archaeologists in November this year to start making plans for their involvement in 2018.

  •  Education – for the General Public and for Schools

One or two articles have featured in local newspapers. There is clearly scope for greater activity here.

On 29 October last year, with much help from Richard Finch, a publicity event was arranged in Ballito at Richard’s Ekhaya Guest House. There we met Ken Lever and others from Ballito. Ken now leads the Ballito chapter of FoS.

 On 3 May Jean, Charlotte, and I did a presentation at the Simbithi Country Club initiated by Ken, (in response to a gap in the Birders Association programme) and then arranged by Chris Matthews. This event was attended by more than fifty people. Jane Wiltshire and Mike White – prominent business people in Ballito attended.

Ken is the driving force behind the Ballito chapter. He has made productive contact with Pat Conway, the developer who owns the land immediately south of the site.

 Charlotte’s film company was invited to participate in the NEWF film congress held two months ago at the Botanical Gardens. Thom (cameraman) and Charlotte (in a group of eight finalists) were required to “pitch” an outline for a ten minute film in a competition for a possible funding (of R50 000). They were not amongst the four emergent film making companies selected. [Charlotte elaborates].  Film/video is now on our monthly meeting agenda. 

 In an effort to get the significance of Sibudu recognized in the school curriculum Charlotte arranged a meeting with the National SACE representative of the teachers Professional Development Organization – Dr.  R. B. Soman of Brookdale Primary school. The idea was to have our MSA presentation accredited so that teachers could earn points by attending a MSA workshop, and later conducting workshops for other teachers. The CPTD system is in the early stages so no progress has yet been made.  

 A workshop for Social Science teachers was organized and held at the Tongaat Education Centre with the help of the Social Science Advisor for Ilembe District, Mr Sihle Mkhanya, and attended by twenty teachers. This was very successful and we were hoping to conduct another before the end of the year.

 As a result of Charlotte’s contact with Langa Nsibande, Social Science Provincial Co-ordinator, Noreen and I were invited to make a submission to a Ministerial Task Team working on the review of the National history curriculum. We gave an oral presentation and made a written submission. Our point was that all pupils from Grade 5 (or earlier) to Grade 12 should be made aware of the fact that all modern humans originated in south and east Africa and lived here before anywhere else in the world. We await feedback from the Task Team.

 Christine’s contact with the Durban Natural Science Museum and Busisiwe Gumede led to a meeting with their volunteer organizer Theshnie Naidoo and an invitation to participate in the Natural Science Museum’s open day, but the museum had not finalized the date. In the end the proposed static presentation of a depiction of MSA lifestyle at Sibudu at the open day at the Museum did not take place, but is on our programme for next year.  

 The Drama Group, Core Ze - led by Mthu Sifiso, participated at the Tongaat workshop. Their depiction of MSA daily lifestyle was well received. The group hopes to present the drama to local schools for a fee. Some work needs to be done on the setting (props), and presentation, and, later, advertising.

  •  Promotion of Sibudu as a tourist attraction       

Quotation:

“….. I am a researcher. I am also the director of two museums in Germany and have a great deal of experience with matters relating to bringing science to wide audience including tourists. In my opinion Sibudu Cave is a flagship site for KZN and could be marketed in this way to school children and to the general public including tourists…. There is no fundamental conflict between my goals as a researcher and the goal of making KZN still more attractive to tourists from all walks of life.”

                                                                                                             Nicholas Conard University of Tubingen

 

We believe that establishing an Interpretive Centre at Sibudu will bring more economic benefit to Ballito, the local people near the site, and to investors, than any other development. This is the “Big Picture” that FoS is working towards. The Ballito Chapter – led by Ken Lever – is best placed to carry this objective forward. At the Business Breakfast mentioned previously the FoS vision was explained. Mike White and Jane Wiltshire and others from the Chamber of Commerce have been supportive. Ken has had two meetings with the developer.

 On the 19th May we met with officials from Ndwedwe and Kwadukuza and Enterprise Ilembe at a meeting held in Ballito at Enterprise Ilembe offices.  The meeting was called by the Ilembe Districts Director of Corporate Governance about “The Sibudu Project” that the previous mayor of Ilembe had initiated. Exactly in which local district authority the Sibudu Heritage Site falls is not clear, nor which District has responsibility for it. We have not been given minutes of that meeting. The official representing the Director of Corporate Governance has changed and fresh contact needs to be made. Another meeting called for two weeks earlier had been cancelled while we were on our way to Kwadukuza. We do however know that the involvement of Enterprise Ilembe in the “Sibudu Project” will be on-going.

  •  Declaration as a National Heritage Site

The South African Heritage Resources Agency, SAHRA, has contacted interested parties and organizations with a view to the proposed declaration of Sibudu as a National heritage Site. SAHRA sent registered letters and emails to a list of stakeholders which the FoS committee provided. This is in anticipation of the need to establish a conservation management plan for the site. We are told that the declaration should be finalized by the end of this year, or by March 2018 at the latest. A “serial” declaration is envisaged Sibudu, Klasies River, Border Cave, Blombos Cave, and Pinnacle Point. Amafa is no longer responsible for the site.

  •  Conclusion

Other committee members to be thanked are Jean, who has brought a wealth of knowledge to a number of talks on the importance of the vegetation and environment, and the “Sense of Place” at Sibudu, and will be talking on “re-wilding Sibudu” after this report; ; Christine Sole for her bubbling enthusiasm on the Education Sub-committee and for organizing this Botanic Gardens venue for the AGM, and Mapaseka, whose brain handles the topical technicalities of Whatsapp and Facebook better than the rest of us put together.

Charlotte, unhappily for us, is leaving Durban for various family reasons and she will no longer be around to prop us up when we droop, or galvanize us with forceful suggestions and multiple opinions – we will miss her! We thank her for the great contribution she has made. Charlotte and Zoli leave with our very best wishes.

 Derek Nicholson 

PRESERVE - RESTORE - ENHANCE

The South African Heritage Agency has notified all stakeholders of their intention to declare the Sibudu Cave a National Heritage Site as it has “qualities so exceptional that it is of national significance”.

 A Management Plan for the Site is strongly recommended and Friends of Sibudu are putting forward ideas for this to all stakeholders.

Friends of Sibudu have a vision of a beautiful nature reserve which will also be an “interpretive centre” or open-air living museum for old and young to enjoy The Sibudu Experience.

Activities would be offered for visitors to learn about the plants and animals, as well as what life was like for hunter-gatherers 70,000 years ago – such as how to make and use stone tools or a bow and arrow or the art of weaving a sedge mat.

SIBUDU IS A REGION OF OUTSTANDING NATURAL BEAUTY!   

The immediate surroundings of the Sibudu Site are exceptionally beautiful. Evergreen trees and riverine vegetation enclose it and the uTongathi River sweeps below it.

BUT ...

this beauty is threatened by the dreaded pereskia climbing cactus and other invasive alien plants. It is also limited in area and has abandoned cane fields on  one side and eroded over-grazed veld on the other.

Natural beauty!