Mags Pillay, director of the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site

Mags Pillay, director of the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site

"The Cradle of Humankind was inscribed as a World Heritage Site because it has produced one of the most significant fossil assemblages ever found," says Mags Pillay, director of the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site.

"The primary objective of the site is to balance the conservation of the remarkable scientific evidence of human origins and the near-pristine environment from which it arose, with the need for development of communities, scientific research, education, tourism and infrastructure.

"This is a difficult and demanding goal, but I am confident that we have an excellent team of capable and dedicated professionals who understand their roles and are able to execute them, despite the complex and often competing demands which we are faced with. The site has made steady progress in achieving what is required.

"I am confident that, despite the enormity of the areas which require detailed attention, we will continue to manage the site in a responsible and positive manner."

UNESCO nomination

South Africa became a signatory to the UNESCO World Heritage Convention in 1997. On 2 December 1999, the Cradle of Humankind was recognised as a site of outstanding universal value and inscribed on the World Heritage List.

On 18 July 2005, the Taung Skull site in North West province and Makapan Valley in Limpopo province were inscribed as serial extensions to the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site. The three sites are collectively known as the fossil hominin sites of South Africa.

Public participation and community projects

The public participation and community projects sub-unit of the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site is responsible for ensuring that the benefits accruing from the area being declared a World Heritage Site is of advantage to the local communities.

This sub-unit also ensures that the management authority informs all the stakeholders of the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site about the progress in the implementation of its projects as well as planned new projects. This also gives stakeholders opportunities to engage the management authority on issues affecting them.

The Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site stakeholders include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Mogale City Local Municipality
  • West Rand District Municipality
  • Landowner associations
  • Tourism-establishment owner forums
  • Local councillors
  • Provincial government departments
  • National government departments
  • Local community formations
  • Government agencies such as the Gauteng Enterprise Propeller (GEP), Tourism Enterprise Partnership (TEP), Small Enterprise Development Agency (Seda) and the Culture, Arts, Tourism, Hospitality and Sport Sector Education and Training Authority (CATHSSETA)

Public meetings are organised at regular intervals in different parts of the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site and on different days in order to give all stakeholders the opportunity to attend. Issue-specific meetings are also organised as and when the need arises.

Community projects that have been identified for the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site in conjunction with municipalities’ integrated development plan (IDP) processes include the following:

  • Housing
  • HIV/Aids clinic
  • Scholar transport
  • School visits to Maropeng and the Sterkfontein Caves
  • Tourism safety monitors
  • SMME development
  • Skills development
  • Craft community beneficiation project

The objectives of the community projects are:

  • Job creation
  • Providing local communities with skills to work in the tourism sector
  • Assisting municipalities to achieve their IDP goals
  • Enterprise development
  • Changing the face of business ownership

Thulani Mbonambi and Mthetheleli Dlomo are responsible for this sub-unit.

Contact Mbonambi on + 27 (0)11 085 2520 or at, or Dlomo on +27 (0)11 085 2521 or at

Authorisation requirements

The listing of the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site in terms of the World Heritage Convention resulted in several duties and obligations being imposed on the South African government, which is required to give effect to its international obligations to protect and conserve the site. In practice, this obligation falls primarily with the management authority in line with powers and duties as identified in the World Heritage Convention Act, 1999 (Act No. 49 of 1999) as well as in provisions of the National Environmental Management: Protected Areas Act, 2003 (Act No. 57 of 2003) and the associated regulations for the proper administration of special nature reserves, national parks and World Heritage Sites.

In terms of the above provisions, which are applicable to the proclaimed “property”, the management authority has a responsibility and duty to manage the property, which includes the review and a decision on applications for development, including a host of activities and events as defined by the above legislation. In order to facilitate the application and authorisation process as defined by legislation, the management authority requires the submission of completed application forms prior to the commencement of construction or the undertaking of an event or activity that requires authorisation.

Application forms to be completed and duly submitted to the management authority are provided for both development activities as well as events taking place within the defined property. It is important to note that the declared World Heritage Site is a “protected area” and hence, in addition to approvals required for development from local authorities and other provincial authorities, authorisation from the management authority is required for numerous development activities as well as events as defined by legislation.

Should proposed development or events take place within the buffer zone of the property, please contact Hein Pienaar on +27 (0)11 085 2486 or +27 (0)82 454 6617, or at for further information on the authorisation for development and events within the area.