History or HeritageKhami, a ruined city located 22 kilometres west of Bulawayo, in Zimbabwe.
It was once the capital of the Kalanga Kingdom of Butwa of the Torwa dynasty.
Photo: Rhodesians Reunited
Written by: Keagan Mattison
The Mapungubwe Cultural Landscape demonstrates the rise and fall of the first indigenous kingdom in Southern Africa between 900 and 1300 AD. The core area covers nearly 30 000 hectares and is supported by a suggested buffer zone of around 100 000 hectares.
Within the collectively known Zhizo sites are the remains of three capitals − Schroda; Leopard’s Kopje; and the final one located around Mapungubwe hill − and their satellite settlements and lands around the confluence of the Limpopo and the Shashe rivers whose fertility supported a large population within the kingdom.

Mapungubwe's demise was brought about by climatic change.

During its final two millennia, periods of warmer and wetter conditions suitable for agriculture in the Limpopo/Shashe valley were interspersed with cooler and drier pulses. When rainfall decreased after 1300 AD, the land could no longer sustain a high population using traditional farming methods, and the inhabitants were obliged to disperse. Mapungubwe's position as a power base shifted north to Great Zimbabwe and, later, Khami.

The remains of this famous kingdom, when viewed against the present day fauna and flora, and the geo-morphological formations of the Limpopo/Shashe confluence, create an impressive cultural landscape of universal significance.
View from the base of Mpungubwe hill, South Africa
Photo: Gregory Fullard
The considerable agricultural enterprise of the final phase at Mapungubwe has vanished.

Although much of the core landscape has returned to its unimproved state with wild grazing game animals, the recent opening up of the property to big game, especially elephants needs to be considered, and is being monitored.

The Messina area is a rich mining area and the diamond mining operations at Riedel (small scale) and Venetia (major operation) could have a potential impact on the property. There is also a possibility that deposits of other valuable minerals may yet be found. With mining rights being recently returned to the State, better future control was anticipated but the granting of a mining licence for coal 5km from the boundary of the property, in a highly sensitive area adjacent to the Limpopo river and in the proposed buffer zone that was submitted at the time of the inscription, is a considerable threat.
The integrity of the site has been affected by the standard of the excavations in the 1930's which it could be argued led to valuable evidence being lost – and thus the completeness of the site, in both physical and intellectual terms has been compromised.

The nominated property and buffer zone have largely not been subjected to any destructive form of human intervention since the remains were abandoned, and the current agricultural activities have not had a major impact on the cultural landscape in terms of its ability to convey its value. 
However there is a need to ensure that old excavations are not eroded by climatic forces or by uncontrolled visitors.
A Trilateral Memorandum of Understanding is currently being drawn up with the objective of establishing the Limpopo-Shashe Transfrontier Conservation Area (TFCA). This very extensive area of 5 040 km² will, when established, constitute an effective buffer zone.

It is intended that each participating country will concentrate on one facet of protection: 
  • cultural heritage in South Africa
  • wildlife in Botswana
  •  and living cultures in Zimbabwe
To help guarantee long-term protection for the property there is a need to complete the Integrated Management Plan and to submit the buffer zone for approval by the World Heritage Committee.