Our Burning Planet


Kgaswane Mountain Reserve’s biodiversity and wildlife under threat from nearby development

Kgaswane Mountain Reserve’s biodiversity and wildlife under threat from nearby development
The Kgaswane Mountain Reserve entrance in Rustenburg. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

The Kgaswane Mountain Reserve is threatened by a nearby development that has been extended to the border of the reserve. Residents, academics and experts are concerned that the development will have detrimental effects on the reserve’s vegetation and wildlife.

Serene, vast and luscious, the Kgaswane Mountain Reserve, in the Magaliesberg above Rustenburg, spans more than 5,000 hectares and is home to varied and indigenous vegetation, more than 115 species of trees, and several wildlife species including antelope, waterbuck, jackal, duiker and kudu, as well as many species of birds. The reserve falls under the Magaliesberg Protected Environment.  

The beautiful and bountiful land, however, is threatened by a nearby development that has been extended to the border of the reserve. Experts who have studied the reserve are concerned that the development will have detrimental effects on the reserve’s vegetation and wildlife.  

Paulette Jacobs, of HydroScience, which is conducting the Schoongezicht Estate’s environmental impact assessment (EIA), told Daily Maverick that the development was still in its scoping phase.  

“Nothing has been finalised and the scoping report is currently with DFFE [Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment] for consideration. As you probably know, the EIA process does include a consultation process with interested and affected parties and other stakeholders and this is still ongoing,” Jacobs said.  

Dr Catherine Dzerefos, a lecturer at the Department of Environmental, Water and Earth Sciences at the Tshwane University of Technology, said some residents of the Schoongezicht Estate had already experienced encroachment from baboons of the reserve, and a number of the primates had been poisoned. Dzerefos said there are plans to extend the estate. 

The waterfalls at the Kgaswane Mountain Reserve in Rustenburg. (Photo: Supplied)

The waterfalls at the Kgaswane Mountain Reserve in Rustenburg. (Photo: Supplied)

A reservoir at the Kgaswane Mountain Reserve in Rustenburg. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

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Daily Maverick visited the reserve and saw rubble a stone’s throw from the reserve’s gate. A dirt road had been dug for what was said to be construction purposes. 

“We should have more of a buffer between people and the nature reserve, not having houses right on top of it,” said Dzerefos. “They actually don’t have authorisation for that development … and yet they have started with [construction]; you can see it on Google Earth. [They] are not prepared to do things currently towards the environment; it’s going to be a problem.  

“Alien plants are going to be planted, then they’re going to end up in the reserve. Who is going to pay to remove them? We don’t have enough resources to remove alien plants, for instance, and actually, why should we? Just so that people can have houses up to the reserve? It’s not well thought out,” said Dzerefos.  

She added that these concerns had been made during the EIA consultation process, but instead of waiting to hear how to address the concerns, the developer went ahead with construction.  

“This is a big problem in our EIA process. People are not taking the Environmental Management Act seriously. [People] think they can just get away with whatever they want and sadly, they actually can, because their consultants say they can just pay a fine … admit they were wrong and carry on merrily,” said Dzerefos.  

A herd of antelopes at the Kgaswane Mountain Reserve in Rustenburg. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

Kgaswane was declared a Ramsar protected wetland site in 2019, acknowledging its role in recharging groundwater and providing fresh water for the nearby communities. The wetland is one of only two in North West and is the biggest in the province.  

Wetlands, all of which in southern Africa are threatened, play an important role in biodiversity as they improve water quality, act as natural water filters and trap sediment that is harmful to nearby ecosystems. In a region highly threatened by the climate crisis, wetlands are important carbon sinks.  

Ray Schaller of the North West’s Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Environment said the main issue regarding the reserve was the scale of development. 

“From visiting the park in its early days, you didn’t see any development pressures from inside the park, now you see these — especially from the hikes. There are these applications for development for mining, but we are using the Environmental Management Framework, and the [Magaliesberg] biosphere to keep those developments within reason; we’re trying,” said Schaller.  

He said the biosphere guidelines state that there should be a buffer zone between the reserve and its surrounds, adding that Rustenberg had always been along the reserve’s boundary.  

Heidi Klingenberg (55) spent her 50th birthday on a two-day hike with a friend in the reserve.  

“My dad was a hiker and forced us to go walking everywhere. He dragged my family members and sisters there and I remember being quite amazed back then already by the different terrain and animals, and that plateau; I love that plateau, it’s astounding.  

“That vista is endless and really beautiful. That’s why I went for the first time and carried on hiking,” Klingenberg said. DM/OBP 

Daily Maverick made several unsuccessful attempts to get in touch with North West Parks, which manages the Kgaswane Mountain Reserve. This article will be updated once responses are received. 

Absa OBP

Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Steve Spottiswoode says:

    Regarding alien plants, a distinction should be made between declared Invasive Alien Plants and plants that have not been declared. Invasive Alien Plants are covered by laws and regulation that prohibit planting. This should be enforced everywhere and especially near sensitive natural areas.

  • Lyn Scheibe Scheibe says:

    This reserve is an unspoilt gem – not always well managed by North West Parks, but this development is illegal and should be stopped if only with regard to the catchment and wetland issues.

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