The Rhenosterspruit Nature Conservancy AGMs are never staid or predictable. The 2009 AGM on 26 July at the SOS Training Centre in Riverside Estates was no exception. All the necessary items were there: minutes, finances, chair report and more. The fun came when Nadine van der Merwe of Hennopsrivier Primary School and her "cast" presented a mime to illustrate the RNC's brand new Manifesto. The props included a tree (dry branch) complete with Stanley, a talkative parrot, and a dangling banana plus tufty grass horse jumps, beer tins and crackers. The cast included a monkey, a rabbit and a couple of “drunk hooligans” (six year-old Jean van der Merwe and Jason Hooper). The other actors were Carmen Hooper, Emma and Klara Greeff.
Jason Hooper, Jean van der Merwe, Nadine van der Merwe and Emma Greeff (left to right)
It was heart-warming to see how serious the younger generation is about conservation. As Emma Greeff (about 9), said: "What is going to happen to our world if we all don't do something now?" It is also disturbing to feel their concern about the future in a world which our generation, among others, has messed up.
Ernest Seamark, Assistant Director for Special Projects (Protected Area Management) in Gauteng's Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (GDARD) gave a eye-opening talk on grasses and grasslands - blissfully devoid of scientific jargon.
“The primary grasslands in Southern Africa are critically endangered,” he said. To counter this the Gauteng Conservation Plan is weighted to protect these grasslands. And at its heart is a unique grassland type – Egoli Granite Grassland (EGG) – found only in a small part of Gauteng, including the Rhenosterspruit Nature Conservancy.
About 270 hectares of this species-rich grassland in Doornrandje have been placed under the protection of GDARD. Plans are in place to enlarge this area and to proclaim it as a nature reserve.
“Only about 11% of a grassland is grass – most is actually forbs,” he said. And 98% of grasses found in grassland are NOT found in forests or anywhere else. “Trees should not be planted where the EGG exists since the area is not meant to be forested.” Highveld grasslands have 823 species of plants – a biodiverse treasure-chest, second only to the Cape fynbos.
The mime actors pesented Ernest with several gifts for his enthusiastically received talk - a bunch of grass, elegantly beribboned, a beaded chicken and an ostrich egg mounted on a piece of wood. A fitting thank you for a good EGG speech!
Thanks to all those who attended the AGM - including some Oorians who had to rush off halfway to put out the second fire of the day. Part of life in the country... It was also good to see new faces at the AGM. Special thanks to the SOS team for giving us such a warm welcome.
New faces on the RNC committee are Niko Knigge (Doornrandje) and Nick Dale (Rhenosterspruit).
The new RNC Constitution was approved. Three documents that will guide the RNC's path into 2010 and beyond were presented and unanimously approved:
The RNC Manifesto - articulating what the RNC at its best stands for.
Portfolios - the 12 key activities being undertaken by the committee to fulfil its mandate. (Several people volunteered to be part of one or more of these portfolios which will lighten the committee's work considerably.)
Objectives for 2009/10 - the main activities to be undertaken in the coming year.
The new MEC (Member of the Executive Council) in charge of Gauteng's Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (GDARD), Nandi Mayathula-Khoza, outlined a very positive list of priorities when she presented her annual budget.
These priorities include:
Developing a new strategy to deal with climate change.
Finalising the updated Conservation Plan.
Implementing the protected areas expansion strategy. This will involve the expansion of nature reserves and the implementation of the Biodiversity Stewardship programme.
Hosting of the Mmatshepo Khumbane awards given annually for community projects.
Broadening the impact of all sustainable resource management.
The Rhenosterspruit Nature Conservancy is one of the areas that will benefit from GDARD's protected area expansion strategy. The Bathabile Primary School, located in Doornrandje, has been entered by the RNC for the annual Mmatshepo Khumbane awards. The school has 1 200 learners, of whom 260 are orphans. Principal Solly Kotu and his staff have created an extensive vegetable garden to supplement the feeding scheme offered at the school. Conservancy members - collectively and individually - have contributed to the school's efforts.
Fergus Sexton of Riverside Estates died tragically in an accident on the R512 on 19 July.
He and his wife, Cathy, moved into the area in 1989. Cathy says: “Ferg and I have always found peace and tranquility in this valley and I truly hope I never have to leave it behind. I plan on staying right where I am – he loved our little piece of paradise and so do I!”
This is wishing Cathy strength and peace.
The excitement is building up around the creation of a soccer and netball field for local children on the SOS Training Village property in Riverside Estates. An enthusiastic team gathered at SOS this week to construct the fields and erect the equipment.
Michelle Panos, who set it all in motion, writes: “A huge thank you to all the Oori residents who have supported and encouraged what began as a simple request from four little people to be able to play soccer alongside their dads!
“Special mention must be made of Myrna Thomas of SOS, the magnanimous lady who has made this dream a possibility, and her team. A number of other phenomenal people have worked tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure the project does indeed come to fruition. Thank you to the 25 joint Accenture/SAB Miller volunteers, conjured up to help with hands-on work and thanks for the Conservancy's donation of some key components.
“Thank you also to Fransa Cole for her kind offer to help with labour, to Christine and Rob Garbett for their commitment as well as to numerous other members of the community who have offered advice and pledged donations or assistance in some or other way. Lastly, a big thank you to Gerald and Michelle Chapman for agreeing to level the playing fields.”
Amazing things can happen when someone sees a need and gets a community rallied behind a project! That's what Michelle Panos has done.
Arriving at SOS - the Accenture-SAB Miller volunteers
Oori girls waste no time taking to the netball field
Young dreamer - Banele Hlongwane - on the new soccer field ready for action!
The bulk of the RNC lies in the proposed Cradle of Humankind Buffer. In mid-August two officials from the Cradle visited the Conservancy to find out more.
Thulani Mbonambi and Mthetheleli Dlomo (Public Participation and Community Projects) remarked on the “infectious enthusiasm” they found, saying the “wonderful site visit was exciting and educational”. They were particularly interested in the Egoli Granite Grassland venture, potential fossil discoveries, the rich history of the area and Bathabile School.
“I was touched by the willingness of the Bathabile staff to work hard,” said Thulani. “I am going to talk to our fundraising department to see how we can be part of the school’s success story.”
A series of public meetings to give feedback on the Cradle's REMF have had mixed responses. The study is being done by SRK Consulting and they are finding it difficult to pull together a widely varying group of stakeholders – landowners, tourism facilities, businesses, schools, landless and jobless people. The problem is exacerbated by the different authorities with a stake in the Cradle and its proposed Buffer – Mogale City, West Rand District Municipality, Tshwane, Joburg, and the Cradle Management Authority. Adding to the confusion is the fact that the Cradle straddles two provinces – Gauteng and North-West!
The Status Quo Report has been released , hard copy as well as electronic: Main report – http://www.srk.co.za/publicdocuments.asp?projID=1181 and supporting maps – http://www.srk.co.za/publicdocuments.asp?projID=1182.
The RNC website has a brand-new look! Go to our “public face”: www.rhenosterspruit.co.za.
For local RNC news and updates, go to www.rnc.za.net. You can also pick up stories from previous VeldTalks in www.veldtalk.za.net. And for up-to-the-minute environmental and conservation news, click on the highly popular www.chronicle.za.net. Rhenosterspruit also features there.
Mountainview Estate: Thirty people attended the public meeting on 5 August for a briefing on a proposed development on the R512 between Riverside Estates and Kalkheuvel. Mountainview's application comprises 85 dwellings and an airfield for light aircraft.
Issues raised by the I&APs: the airfield and noise factor, location within the buffer area of the Cradle, water supply (boreholes or piped water), accommodation of workers and light pollution.
Cradle City (around Lanseria Airport): In response to the RNC's request for information, Tebogo Mokgejane of SEF, the consultancy handling the application, said: “We are well aware that several months have passed since our last correspondence in March 2009. SEF is not in a position to determine precisely when the EIA and SEA processes will continue, at least as regards further engagement with the interested and affected parties.
“The development being sold at present forms part of a separate study, in terms of town planning and EIA processes. This area was previously known as Lanseria Business Park, and it will ultimately form part of the Cradle City development; but it was finalized ever before the Cradle City development was formally initiated. As such, it has been given the full go-ahead from the relevant authorities. SEF was not involved in this study, because we have only been engaged for the Cradle City development proper.”