Kruger National Park: Before Apartheid and Today

By Nicole Friend

After a beautiful and adventurous visit to Kruger National Park I had to ask myself, who was said to be responsible for establishing the park, and what purpose did it serve before apartheid in South Africa?

The first claim of the area as a game reserve was in 1898, when Paul Kruger, the president of the Transvaal Republic helped establish the area as “Government Wildlife Park” (History of Kruger). It was not until 1926 that the game reserve was expanded to officially become Kruger National Park. While Mr. Kruger was responsible for the permanent expansion and naming, he was not the man who found the area, and he was definitely not the first to live there and develop the land.

As I walked around the park during my free time, I noticed that most of the information boards only gave credit to white British men, who were were responsible for declaring Kruger South Africa’s first National Park. This was upsetting to me because after careful research, it became clear that the San people existed in the area as far back as 100,000 BC, deserving equal if not more credit for the early developments of the land(History of Kruger). The San are known as Bushman, or the hunters and gatherers, living in South Africa for over 20,000 years (San). It wasn’t until the Arabs came into the area, that the San people were relocated. Without the San people discovering and living in the area, I’m not sure if civilization would have developed as quickly as it did. After learning the rich history of Kruger and who was originally on the land, I’m disappointed that many of the posters and plaques did not blatantly give credit to people like the Sans throughout the park.

Although Kruger National Park became open to the public in 1927, it was not until the end of the 20th century that black tourists and employees were welcome and populated the reserve. Sadly, the result of apartheid oppression prevented black tourists from entering the park. Furthermore, it wasn’t until 1993, that black tourists were welcome to stay overnight in the park (Lewthwaite, 1998). After seeing all the beautiful species of animals living together as one, it made me wonder, why couldn’t communities of different races do the same after apartheid? Kruger is a sacred place for animals, and it is important for all people of the human race to work together in order to maintain the quality of life for the Safari animals and the history of the environmental game reserve.

Today, Kruger is now filled with many different types of people, and is a tourist attraction for communities in South Africa and around the world. No longer are only white men responsible and credited for conserving the park and the animals. As the years go by, I hope the rich history of the San people continues to be unveiled and remnants of apartheid struggles no longer exist in any form in the park. “It belongs to the nation, as opposed to what apartheid made it to be, the preserve of rich whites. Now it is the people’s park,” says Mabunda, (Lewthwaite, 1998). It is my hope that the positive changes within Kruger National Park will eventually be just one example of South Africa’s change as a whole.


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