A Thousand Year Old Kingdom

On 8 April 1933, a remarkable discovery was made in the Transvaal, a grave of unknown origin, filled with gold-work, was found on the summit of a natural rock stronghold in a wild region. This site was Mapungubwe Hill, which serves as the capital of the ancient Mapangubwe Kingdom, situated on the international borders between South Africa, Zimbabwe and Botswana. Since the site was discovered, the same story of Mapungubwe has been told. It's a story of a flourishing Iron Age metropolis on the Limpopo ruled by an African king almost a thousand years ago.

The Kingdom comprised a sophisticated state system, with highly developed agriculture, mining, and metallurgy industries and traded with countries as far afield as China. According to the Archaeology Department at the University of the Witwatersrand, Mapungubwe represented 'the most complex society in Southern Africa'.

In July 2003, the Mapungubwe Cultural Landscape became South Africa's fifth World Heritage site and was officially announced as Mapungubwe National Park in May 2004. All cultural items that blossomed from the complex and highly developed state and culture found within Mapungubwe are part of a heritage collection and the remains of this ancient society can be viewed at the Mapungubwe Museum at the University of Pretoria.

The Save Mapungubwe Coalition

The Save Mapungubwe Coalition (the Coalition) consist of several leading non-governmental organisations including the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT), the Association of Southern African Professional Archaeologists (ASAPA), the Mapungubwe Action Group (MAG), the Wilderness Foundation South Africa (the WFSA), the World Wide Fund for Nature South Africa (the WWF) and BirdLife South Africa (BLSA).

Combining resources and expertise of the various member organisations, the Coalition was formed in early 2010 in response to the granting of the mining right to construct and operate an open cast and underground coal mine known as the Vele Colliery, and the associated approval of the Environmental Management Programme, by the Department of Mineral Resources. Much of the Coalition’s concern relates to the location of the Vele Colliery and the impact that the mining and related operations will have on the unique and sensitive landscape within which the Vele mining area falls. The Vele mining area is situated on 8500 ha and lies less than 6km from the borders of the Mapungubwe National Park, and is adjacent to the Mapungubwe Cultural Landscape which has been declared a World Heritage Site. The area is a national treasure given its enormous historical and archaeological significance as well as the abundant biodiversity that exists in this ecologically sensitive landscape. The significance of the area has been recognised by South Africa, Zimbabwe and Botswana and in 2006, the three countries entered into an agreement to establish and develop the Greater Mapungubwe Transfrontier Conservation Area with the Mapungubwe National Park at its core.

Below you can also watch a series of short films (<3 mins) produced by GreenRenaissance about Mapungubwe, its value and the threat posed to it by inappropriate development.