Upon the request of the World Heritage Committee at the time of the inscription of Matobo Hills on the World Heritage List (27 COM 8C.59), the World Heritage Centre received the Matobo Hills Management Plan in December 2004.
When this property was presented to the 27th session of the World Heritage Committee (UNESCO, 2003), ICOMOS recommended deferring the nomination of the property to allow for a coordinating Management Plan to be prepared. The Committee chose to inscribe the property, requesting the establishment of an effective management committee composed of all the key stakeholders and the development of a management system designed according to the characteristics of the World Heritage property in its cultural and natural context.
ICOMOS notes that, although part of the property –the National Park - had a Management Plan the key issue justifying the need for a comprehensive World Heritage site Management Plan was the importance to provide a coordinating mechanism and to put in place a management process involving all key stakeholders: the National Park, local authorities, private land-owners, Chiefs, as well as custodians of shrines. As the property was inscribed as a living, dynamic and complex cultural landscape that encompassed both tangible and intangible elements – rock paintings and shrines that attracted people from a large area of Southern Africa – the Management Plan also needed to address both these elements, including the natural quality of the landscape which has such strong cultural associations. In addition, the large number of visitors brought problems of security and lack of respect for the sacredness of the area. The Plan therefore needed to address issues of cultural tourism.
The presented Management Plan successfully addresses all these issues. The overall need for this Management Plan is clearly spelt out in paragraph 6.4.2 of the Plan, which states that the existing management methods reflected institutional bias, which not only resulted in duplication of efforts, but also led to uncoordinated and less integrated conservation, management and marketing efforts, not yielding the desired results. More importantly, there was also antagonism and conflict amongst stakeholders as well as alienation of local communities. In one very important sentence it is said that: “It became apparent that isolated management approaches are not appropriate for the management of cultural landscapes, hence the development of more holistic, consultative and integrated approaches”. The Management Plan aims to follow exactly such an approach.
A stakeholder body, the Management Committee, has been set up and its structure and function clearly set out. Meetings were held with community groups to draw them into the process. From this it appeared that although members of the traditional leadership had been involved in the nomination, information on the inscription and its meaning had not been passed down to local village communities. They did not feel part of the management of the landscape and indeed felt as if they were standing on the sidelines. These consultative meetings were crucial in understanding the need to empower local people to be part of the overall management process if they were to benefit from the inscription and be part of the overall management of the World Heritage property.
The Plan sets out very clearly the needs of the property in terms of research (particularly in terms of intangible qualities), the management of tourists in areas hat have the capacity to accept them, the need for a firewood and general tree policy, and the need to promote sustainable agriculture as a means of protecting the landscape. It clearly lists threats and opportunities and then lists how these will be addressed. Part of the Plan is an Implementation Plan for the next five years. Although clearly resource implications exist for many of the actions identified, the Plan also sets out activities that can be implemented without substantial funding through coordination and sharing activities. It also points out that one of its benefits has been to underline the local communities’ involvement in the overall cultural landscape and it hopes that promoting this could ‘unlock significant resources from Non-Governmental Organisations’.
ICOMOS appreciated the Plan as being very honest, fair and balanced that sets out clear targets for this property but also maps new ways forward that involve more cooperation and the possibility of public-private partnerships.