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MLAWULA – Government has approved E60 million for a fencing project of 120km perimeter, that will cover an area of 80 000 hectares at the Big Five National Park.

Yesterday, Minister of Tourism and Environmental Affairs Moses Vilakati, together with his counterpart at Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Thuli Dladla-led diplomats from various countries on a field visit at the Hlane Royal National Park and Mlawula Nature Reserve, to get first-hand information on the Big Five project. The Big Five animals are elephant, lion, buffalo, leopard and rhino. The diplomats who honoured the tour were Earl Miller (United States of America), Brahma Jagabattuni (India), Dessislava Choumelova (European Union), Jeremy Liang (Taiwan), Carlos Lopes (Portugal) and Jeremiah Mendes (International Organisation for Migration).


Also gracing the tour were KaLanga Umphakatsi Chief Jozane Maziya, government Spokesperson Alpheous Nxumalo and the Eswatini National Trust Commission (ENTC) Board, together with senior staff members. The tour was concluded with a hike to the Khabane Cave, which is a three-kilometre walk from the main road. According to Acting Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of ENTC Thulani Methula, the fencing of the merged Mlawula Nature Reserve, Hlane Royal National Park and Mbuluzi Game Reserve, would commence soon. The Acting CEO said it would costs E10 million to fence a distance of 20km.

“Government has already approved the budget to undertake the project. There is no foreseen relocation of families from the communities closer to this project,” he said. Methula further unpacked the project to the diplomats and emphasised that there were communities closer to it that had been engaged to be educated about the importance of nature conservation. Minister of Tourism Vilakati said this project was in line with the King’s vision of promoting tourism in the country as well as creating job opportunities for emaSwati.

Worth mentioning is that a study undertaken by the World Bank indicated that about 947 000 tourists visited Eswatini in 2021. Vilakati said government had envisaged the need to promote tourism and nature conservation as the heartbeat of economic development. The minister said the development of the Big Five National Park would also reap positive rewards in the construction of five-star accommodation for the tourists.
He said inviting the diplomats to be part of the tour was a means to ensure that they marketed the country’s tourism sector to their respective countries.


“We are so happy that the King’s vision of seeing emaSwati reaping positive results through tourism will be realised through this project. “Here at Mlawula, we have about 350 species of birds and ironwood, a tree that is used to build a railway line and there are a number of indigenous trees which we have to conserve for tourists and future generations of the country,” he said. The minister further stated that communities like Shewula and Mhlumeni, including the Lubombo Regional Administrator (RA) Themba Msibi and chiefs, had been sensitised about the project.

However, he said, they had noted the growth in the population of wildlife, hence he described the project as a mini ‘Kruger National Park,’ considering the enormous perimeter it would cover upon completion. In her remarks, Minister Dladla said this project was part of the commemoration of His Majesty King Mswati III’s birthday, as it was key in improving and developing the lives of emaSwati in creating job opportunities and contributing towards economic growth of the country. “We organised this event to sell our country to our diplomatic partners, hence our ambassadors will also be required to do the same at their posted countries.

“Nature conservation is essential as we are third in the whole world when it comes to nature conservation. We hope the formation of the Big Five National Park would reap positive fruits for the country,” she said. KaLanga Umphakatsi Chief Jozane said emaSwati should thank the King for his dream of bringing investment opportunities closer to them as this project would create job opportunities for emaSwati. The chief said he had engaged ENTC officials and invited them to conduct educational exercise about the project so that his subjects were enlightened about its importance and their expectations.


He said the project was aimed at improving the value of emaSwati’s life as they would benefit through selling their handicraft and also other products to tourists. “I have invited the ENTC officials to educate my subjects about the importance of wildlife and conservation and to sensitise them about poaching. “I would like to thank the King for this gigantic project as it comes at the right time to address the issue of unemployment at rural areas.
“People of KaLanga should come up with ideas that will ensure that they generate income through this project,” he said.

Portugal Consul Carlos Lopes described this project as the first-of-its-kind to be experienced in the Southern African Development Community (SADC), on the basis that it would cover a huge area of nature and wildlife. “This is a fantastic project and we have experienced nature and wildlife today (yesterday) and we will market Eswatini to our countries so that they can come and experience the beauty of nature and wildlife of Eswatini,” he said.