By Yolandi Groenewald
Environmentalists are holding their breath to see if order can be restored to the world-renowned Ndumo Game Reserve in northern KwaZulu-Natal after the provincial government called in police reinforcements in response to worsening anarchy there.
Ndumo was attacked by a mob at the end of last month, which destroyed a guard outpost and swing bridge close to the camp and threatened tourists and game rangers.
As a result, the KwaZulu-Natal agriculture and environmental affairs department called in troops.
The attack by the 70-strong mob is the latest crisis in the reserve since the wetland and birding area was hit by a land invasion by neighbouring communities two years ago, intended to “liberate” it for agriculture.
The invading Bhekabantu and eMbangweni communities cut down 12km of the park’s fence, demanding that they be allowed to farm inside the park.
They have since gone on to occupy 16 20ha or 14% of the reserve, which includes the most ecological sensitive section of the park.
But despite the presence of troops, including the defence force patrolling the border, the land invaders continue to practise slash-and-burn cultivation, destroying large areas of mature riverine fig forest.
The Mail & Guardian understands the mob attack occurred after the provincial environmental portfolio committee met local leaders from the Mbangweni Corridor and Ezemvelo staff members on September 21 and 22. More....