A glimmer of hope for the protection of sacred sites

On July 7th, Judge Mann of the High Court of South Africa ordered the cessation of tourism development on the sacred Phiphidi waterfall in the Limpopo province. Evidence such as community maps led to the judge agreeing with the traditional custodians that the whole site is sacred, “In the same way a church building is regarded by some as a holy place, even though the rituals are done only at the altar”. The judge also agreed that the Ramunangi clan were the custodians of this site acting in public interest and according to cultural and spiritual rights and the right to environmental protection under South African law.

However, the development still continues in breach of the court order. Natural Justice has submitted a letter of support to the legal team and custodians, who are now formally applying to the High Court of South Africa to permanently stop the development. If the court case is successful, it will set an important precedent in asserting cultural and custodianship rights and responsibilities in Venda, elsewhere in South Africa, and throughout Africa. More information can be found here and here.

24 July 2010

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