Reitumetse Makwea

By Reitumetse Makwea


Golden Gate National Park: Preserving the heart and soul of SA’s natural heritage

Golden Gate represents the one percent that preserves all that history and heritage that was known across the Free State.

In the heart of QwaQwa in the eastern Free State lies a national treasure that transcends time and culture – Golden Gate Highlands National Park, famous for its impressive sandstone formations.

Described by locals as a sprawling oasis of natural beauty, history, and diverse communities, the park has, according to its manager Peter Gordon, become a symbol of unity in preserving the rich tapestry of the African Basotho culture.

Gordon said SA had an obligation to protect and preserve special parts of the country, “and the best way to explain how Golden Gates fits into that is to look at the local economy, and agricultural products of the Free State”.

Breadbasket of SA

“The entire Free State is the breadbasket of SA and if you look at the figures out of all of the sunflowers within the country, 56% of the sunflowers come from this province,” he said.

“About 46% of the mealies come from here, while 45% of the soya also is from here, 45% of ground nuts, 20% of the beef and mutton come from here, and 25% of the eggs as well.

“We have this amazing province, which is just the breadbasket and food-producing place, the result of that though is; it is wall to wall of farmlands without all of the animals and medicinal plants, and vegetables our grandfathers used to eat.”

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He said Golden Gate represents the one percent that preserves all that history and heritage that was known across the Free State.

“It is also across the world one of the most threatened biomes, it is only less than two percent protected and Golden Gate only preserves the one percent.

“If you want to know the history of what people made, ate, used and so forth you can only now find it here,” he said.

Catchment area

“So that is our number one main reason for existence, the other main reason is we are part of the Maloti Drakensberg catchment area – one of SA’s strategic water areas between the Vaal River and the Orange River which provide up to 50% of the country’s water.”

He said the beautiful geological formations which carried a ton of history from the scenery to the discovery of the largest plant-eating dinosaurs, named Ledumahadi Mafube, that walked the same mountains before they were fully formed 200 million years ago was also another reason why the preservation of history was extremely important.

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Meanwhile, following the SA National Parks Week which ran from 16 to 24 September, aiming to encourage citizens to enjoy their natural heritage – especially communities bordering the protected areas, South African National Parks (SANParks) encouraged locals to engage in the preservation of history as well.

With the theme “wild on your back yard” to encourage South Africans to explore the wilderness in their own backyard, SANParks’ Rey Thakguli stressed the importance of locals forming a part of the preservation, “in order to have their stories told in their own way”.

Cultures from around the world

According to a local employed at the Golden Gate Hotel & Chalets Accommodation, Jampolo Mosea, nestled right outside the park’s boundaries were vibrant neighbourhoods representing cultures from around the world and not just the Basotho.

“For decades, this cultural diversity has woven a unique tapestry that breathes life into the park and thus each corner of the park tells a different story,” he said with pride.

“The people of Free State, Basotho, are not willing to let their cultural heritage disappear. That’s why many of us are determined to preserve the heart and soul of Golden Gate National Park.”

He said the preservation efforts were a beacon of hope for communities facing cultural challenges across the province and even in Lesotho.

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Free State heritage Highlands Park SANParks

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