Richards Bay Minerals (RBM) has completed the second phase of the R2.5 million Sokhulu Heritage Site, which will include a specially dedicated area to house the remains of royal elders excavated during RBM’s initial mining operations in Sokhulu. The remains have been respectfully preserved off site until the company and the Traditional Leaders could find a new home for them. The heritage site, which will boast an administration block, market stalls for traders and traditional Zulu huts, will also display an array of traditional artefacts that will form part of the exhibition aimed at attracting tourists.
“Preserving the heritage of the communities in which we operate is a fundamental part of the way we do business but we understand that it is way more than that,” says Werner Duvenhage, Managing Director, Richards Bay Minerals. “It speaks to the hearts and minds of the people that we interact with daily. Recognition of, and respect for, a community’s cultural heritage is fundamental to building an enduring relationship with them, and this is what Heritage Month is all about.”
Cultural heritage management (CHM) is the formal process through which Rio Tinto’s businesses – including RBM - account for the importance of cultural heritage features and values in their planning of business activities. RBM is required to manage cultural heritage in consultation with its host communities and to take reasonable and practical measures to prevent harm to cultural heritage features, which could include the co-management of heritage facilities and providing cultural awareness training.
As RBM finalises the Sokhulu Heritage Site, the intention is to hand the facility over to the Sokhulu Traditional Council early next year to be used to drive tourism development in the local community. The Amafa Cultural Council will be invited to provide guidance on how to manage a heritage site.
According to Inkosi Yesizwe SakwaSokhulu, Ubab’ Mthiyane; “The importance of the Heritage Centre is that it will serve as a monument to preserve the culture and heritage of the people of Sokhulu. It is also vital to ensure that we undertake a marketing drive to attract tourists with whom we will share our culture.”
Inkosi Mthiyane added that the centre should be used to assist young people acquire skills and to provide a platform for subsistence farmers in the areas to sell their produce. It is critical that the centre is managed properly to ensure that we preserve this gift for generations to come, he emphasized.
This is not the first cultural preservation project undertaken by the local mining company. The Mananga Heritage Site was opened in KwaMbonambi a few years ago with similar intentions and the company aims to revive discussions with the Mbonambi Traditional Council on robust marketing strategy to revitalise the important heritage site as a prime tourist attraction in the area.
In previous years, RBM has supported annual cultural events in its host communities, but because of Covid-19 lockdowns, this will not be these events will not be happening in 2020.
“Caring for employees in the workplace is at the heart of how we operate,” adds Duvenhage. “It makes sense then that this should extend to understanding and preserving their heritage, culture and traditions. Knowing the places, objects and practices that are important to our communities and stakeholders, and understanding why they are valued, is a critical part of our cultural heritage management strategy.”
For media queries:
Contact: Zanele Zungu
035 901 3448
Issued by- Rio Matlhaku
Aprio Strategic Communications
On behalf of Richards Bay Minerals