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Phiphidi waterfall preservation Efforts

The destruction at Phiphidi has been devastating to the Ramunangi, whose elders fear that the well-being of their community and the environment is threatened because of their inability to properly perform their traditional rituals, and thus preserve the protective power of the site.

Driven to seek recourse outside the traditional hierarchy of tribal leadership, Ramunangi leaders in November 2008 drafted a legal claim of rights to the sacred sites at Phiphidi Waterfall. In it, they requested that the national, provincial and local governments officially acknowledge them as the traditional custodians, that the site be closed to the public, that tourism development and quarrying for the road project be stopped entirely, and that the sacred site be repaired and restored.

Instead of immediately filing the claim with the provincial court, they presented it first to government officials, including the Limpopo Department of Economic Development, Environment, and Tourism and the Limpopo Heritage Department. These two entities agreed to acknowledge, albeit unofficially, the Ramunangi as custodians of the site and to consult the clan prior to further development. These agreements are informal, however, and the Ramunangi may still file their claim in court if they are not honored.

The ultimate protection of Phiphidi Waterfall may entail applying for protection under South Africa’s cultural heritage laws, which place strict limitations on development. As yet, protection through these heritage laws has not been sought for any of the other Venda sacred sites.

In 2009, the Ramunangi and other vhaVenda clans participated in ecocultural mapping workshops to develop maps of their sacred sites and surrounding areas. These maps will be used to fortify their territorial rights claims and to determine the degree of future, public access to the sites as preferred by the clans.

Content created and supplied by: LufunoSenyela (via Opera News )

Phiphidi Ramunangi


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