An investigation into trust and perceptions of interdependence in the co-management of a restituted state managed protected area : case of the Hluhluwe corridor game reserve.
Bukhosini, Sibusiso Emmanuel.
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The Hluhluwe Corridor Game Reserve is situated in the uMkhanyakude District municipality, approximately 350 kilometres from Durban. The reserve was proclaimed in 1989 after the forced removal of the Mpukunyoni and Mkhwanazi communities between the 1940’s and 1960’s. In June 2007, the KwaZulu-Natal Regional Land Claims Commission restored the previously dispossessed communities’ rights to the land through the restitution land reform programme. The conditions for the settlement agreement stipulated that the current management authority, eZemvelo KwaZulu Natal Wildlife (EKZNW), should continue to manage the land despite ownership being transferred to the legal entity of the originally dispossessed communities of Mpukunyoni and Mkhwanazi known as the Corridor of Hope Trust (COHT). The land claim settlement agreement signed by both parties (EKZNW and COHT) further suggested that the parties enter into a comanagement agreement for the continued management of the reserve within three months of signing the settlement agreement to ensure the sharing of benefits that accrue from the reserve between the parties. At the present moment EKZNW, in accordance with Chapter 5 of the Kwa-Zulu Natal Nature Conservation Management Act, 9 of 1997, recognizes local boards as structures which represents the interests of communities living adjacent to protected areas. It is important to note that the local board structure do not only represent the claimant communities but also represents the broader communities irrespective of whether they are land claimants or not. It is for this reason that in the case of Hluhluwe Imfolozi Park there is a Hluhluwe Imfolozi local board, the majority of the members of the local board are also land claimants in respect of the land claim lodged against the Hluhluwe Imfolozi Park and are also members of the COHT. It is for this reason that COHT and the local board for the purposes of this study are treated as a single structure hence when there is reference to parties it would also be dealing with EKZNW, COHT and the local board. It would be important that after the signing of the co-management agreement is finalised the existence and relevance of both COHT and local board is discussed and agreed upon amongst all parties to avoid duplication of responsibilities and overstretching of resources. However in the meantime, before the discussions and decisions are made in respect of the existence and relevance of the community structures(COHT and local board) the recommended institutional arrangement recognizes both these structures until such time if at all possible they are amagulmated. This study assumed that unless the people of the COHT and Hluhluwe Imfolozi Local Board trusted EKZNW and strongly perceive themselves to be interdependent with EKZNW, the prospects for successful co-management between the parties (COHT and EKZNW) are bleak. Whereas investigating both parties would have enhanced the understanding of perceptions between the parties, the study focused on getting a deeper understanding of the COHT because they have suffered the consequences of forceful removals and its implications thereof. The aim of this study was to determine the COHT levels of trust and perceptions of interdependence with EKZNW. To accomplish this, two objectives were identified. The first was to investigate the degree or level to which COHT trusted EKZNW through identifying some key elements of trust, namely respect, honesty, transparency, consistency and delivery. Secondly, the study assessed the extent to which the COHT perceived interdependence with EKZNW. The extent to which COHT demonstrated the perception of interconnectedness and mutual dependence was probed to assess perceptions of interdependence. The presence of these elements in the responses would lead to the conclusion that the COHT perceived themselves to be interdependent with EKZNW. In the interest of gaining in depth understanding of the positions of those in COHT all efforts were focused on these stakeholders. An intense review of the literature to establish the elements of trust and perceptions of interdependence to include in the investigation was the first method employed. Thereafter a purposive sample was drawn from the trustees of the COHT. These persons, COHT, were entrusted with the responsibility of overseeing all issues pertaining to the restored land, since they were considered to be de facto co-managers, representing the broader restitution beneficiaries during the co-management arrangement. Respondents were engaged in semistructured face to face interviews with both open-ended and closed-ended questions. Results of the study indicated that the trustees of the COHT do not trust EKZNW. The high levels of mistrust appear to be related to the manner in which people were removed from their ancestral land in the 1940’s and 1960’s. The majority of respondents highlighted lack of respect, transparency, delivery, honesty and consistency in the manner in which EKZNW conducts its business in the area. It appeared that the lack of these elements of trust contributed to low levels of trust from COHT against EKZNW as an entity. However, respondents acknowledged that they needed EKZNW to continue managing the protected area to ensure that its ecological integrity is not compromised. Respondents further indicated their willingness to work collaboratively with EKZNW. The study finally concludes, based on the displayed perceptions of interdependence, with a recommended institutional arrangement aimed at ensuring improved levels of trust by the COHT to EKZNW to ensure successful co-management of the restored land. The study further suggests that in order to give a full account of the study, similar study be conducted to ascertain the trust levels and perceptions of interdependence on the part of EKZNW.
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