Speech by Minister Pallo Jordan on the occasion of the visit by President Hu Jintao to the Maropeng Centre at the Craddle of Humankind

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07 Feb 2007

Programme Director,
Mr Mbhazima Shilowa, Premier of Gauteng Province,
Your Excellency President Hu Jintao, President of the People’s Republic of China;
Madame LIU Yonging,
Ministers and Deputy Ministers of the People’s Republic of China,
Members of the delegation from the People’s Republic of China,
Your Excellency Mr Liu Guijin, Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China,
Your Excellency Mr Ndumiso Ntshinga, South Africa’s Ambassador to the People’s Republic of China,
Minister Naledi Pandor, my esteemed colleague, Honourable Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Members of the fourth estate,

On behalf of the South African government, I would like to extend a warm welcome to President Hu Jintao and the delegation from the People’s Republic of China.

We are honoured to have Your Excellency here today at Maropeng, which is part of the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site, one of the seven World Heritage sites that South Africa has inscribed on the World Heritage List.

Maropeng was chosen as the name for this site to remind people that the ancestors of all human beings, wherever they may live today, originally came from Africa, and probably first emerged here. When visiting the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site, people are actually returning to “the place of origin”

In his speech at the opening of the site on 7 December 2005, the President of the Republic of South Africa echoed this by saying “This home, my home, your home, Maropeng Visitor Centre, is an African monument to the wonder of the human species, in all its beauty and variety; in all its tragedy and glory; in all its wonder and complexity. It is a monument to the entire human race”.

It is therefore not coincidental that this is where the African World Heritage Fund was launched on 5 May 2006. The Fund is an initiative that will place African State Parties in good stead to improve the state of conservation of the world heritage sites in Africa. This Fund will also link heritage preservation to sustainable economic development and thereby afford heritage an opportunity to play a vital role in critical issues affecting the African continent. These issues include poverty eradication, skills development and job creation.

The launch of the African World Heritage Fund was the culmination of a number of activities that to translate the idea of “The Fund” into a reality.

The proposal to establish the African World Heritage Fund was adopted by the plenary session of the 29th Session of the World Heritage Committee held in Durban in 2005. It was then adopted by the African Union Ministers of Culture Council on 13-14 December 2005, in Nairobi, Kenya, and endorsed by the African Union Heads of State Summit on 23-24 January 2006 in Khartoum, Sudan.

In 2002, the 26th session held in Budapest, Hungary, the World Heritage Committee adopted the African Periodic Report: Reporting exercise on the World Heritage Convention. The report highlighted the challenges faced by many African countries regarding the implementation of the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage.

The key challenge highlighted by this report is under representation of African sites on the World Heritage List and the over representation of the continent on the list of World Heritage in Danger. Only 7% of the 830 sites on the World Heritage List are in Africa yet, Africa accounts for 43% of sites in World Heritage in Danger.

The African World Heritage Fund, which is an initiative to address the challenges faced by the African continent with regards to its heritage, received overwhelming support at the 29th session of the World Heritage Committee held in Durban, 10-19 July 2005. The support was accompanied by specific pledges of financial and other support for a feasibility study for the establishment of the Fund.

I wish to take this opportunity, Your Excellency, to acknowledge and express our deep appreciation of the financial contribution made by the People’s Republic of China towards that feasibility study.

The Board of Trustees of this Fund had its first meeting on 29-30 November 2006 to take decisions about its governance structure, its initial operations, its finances and its priority projects. 

The success of this institution depends on partnerships that we should forge at continental level, as well as on international support from partners such as yourselves.

Since the establishment of formal diplomatic relations on 1 January 1998, South Africa and China have enjoyed mutually beneficial relations. We are particularly thankful for your cooperation in the field of Arts and Culture. China’s contribution to African Heritage Fund is one more palpable expression of your great country’s commitment to our continent.

Heritage, arts and culture make a critical contribution to the social cohesion of any society. Maropeng tells us that while we are an extremely diverse species, yet we all come from one family. The preservation and protection of sites like these therefore has an importance far beyond South Africa.

Your Excellency, allow me to take this opportunity to congratulate the People’s Republic of China on the inscription of the Yin Xu and Sichuan Giant Panda Sanctuaries on the World Heritage List in 2006.

We are at a turning point in the development of this continent. Africa’s rich, diverse, tangible and intangible heritage will be a key driver of this transformation. The determination with which this fund has been created inspires hope that Africa’s heritage will be preserved for posterity and to the benefit of all humankind.

Thank You