Vandalism damages world heritage site

Niël Terblanché

Senseless acts of vandalism are threatening Namibia’s viability as one of the top tourism destinations in the world.

A recent absurd act of vandalism defaced and damaged the serene dune landscape of Sossusvlei in the Namib Naukluft Park. The act was perpetrated by people who drove quadbikes or dune buggies.

Visitors to one of Namibia’s best-known tourist attractions and a world heritage site found tire tracks and spinning marks in one of the valleys amongst the dunes.

Initially, it was reported that the marks were found in the world-renowned Deadvlei but closer investigation revealed that the sensitive areas e was speared by the vandals.

Romeo Muyunda, spokesperson of the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism confirmed the incident and said the tire marks clearly indicate that the culprits were spinning with what officials suspect to be motorbikes.

“In recent months, we have also observed vandalism of infrastructure, where some visitors to the park removed poles demarcating restricted areas to drive their vehicles through,” he said.

Muyunda said that the ministry strongly condemns these types of actions in the country’s national parks.

“We wish to clarify that by no means did the Ministry sanction such activity, nor did we have any knowledge of it. It should be noted that in all our National Parks, off-road driving or driving in restricted areas is not allowed,” he said.

Muyunda added that Sossusvlei and the Namib Naukluft Park are no exception to these restrictions, especially considering the fact that Sossusvlei is a world heritage site.

“The Ministry denies all insinuations and allegations that it does not carry out law enforcement at Sossusvlei or any of our National Parks for that matter. There are consistent and regular patrols at Sossusvlei, unfortunately, the area is huge, it is impossible to be everywhere at all times,” he said

Muyunda added that Namibia promotes self-guided and regulated tours where visitors are left to experience the country while adhering to park rules without being monitored.

“We call upon all visitors to our national parks to always adhere to park rules and regulations which are mainly meant to assist in the preservation of our pristine landscapes and other natural resources,” he said

According to Muyunda, the rules in parks are also designed to ensure the safety of visitors and to minimize the risks associated with restricted activities.

“It is our collective responsibility to ensure that our tourism sites, most of which are vulnerable to human activities are kept in their pristine nature. This is one of the unique attributes and selling points of Namibia’s tourism offering,” he said.

After saying that officials will try to rehabilitate the damaged area, Muyunda appealed to members of the public with information about the senseless act of vandalism at Sossusvlei which may assist the ministry to identify the culprits to contact the ministry for justice to be served.

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