An architectural rendition of the River Club proposed redevelopment project.
An architectural rendition of the River Club proposed redevelopment project.

Cheers and jeers as River Club development gets go-ahead from City

By Mwangi Githahu Time of article published Apr 21, 2021

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Cape Town - The Western Cape First Nations Collective, comprising the majority of Khoi and San leaders in the Cape Peninsula, has applauded the City’s approval of the controversial R4 billion River Club development as a phenomenal victory.

However, the Observatory Civic Association (OCA), which has led a battle against the development, said it would continue with its court challenge.

The collective’s spokesperson, Zenzile Khoisan, said the developer’s undertaking to introduce elements celebrating Khoi cultural heritage at the site broke the curse of invisibility that First Nations people have had to endure over the past 26 years of democracy.

“This decision vindicates our strategy of the exercise of our right of cultural agency. That process has now opened a new chapter for us, where our right to return to our place of dispossession is guaranteed.

“Here, in the River Club, the first nations will find anchorage and be in charge of our own narrative. Here we will celebrate our heritage in a world-class heritage and cultural practice centre showcasing the best of the first nations music, culture and art,” said Khoisan.

In an announcement on Monday evening, mayoral spokesperson Greg Wagner said: “The 15-hectare parcel of land has been approved for development by the Liesbeek Leisure Properties Trust (LLPT). The proposed development will meet the requirements of inclusivity and integration and be a significant boost to the Cape Town economy.

“The site is not subject to restrictions, such as a heritage protection overlay zone. However, the developer has undertaken to introduce various elements to celebrate culture and heritage.

“To commemorate the heritage significance of the site, the developer shall incorporate the following features: an indigenous garden; a cultural, heritage and media centre for the First Nations; a heritage-eco trail; a garden amphitheatre for use by the First Nations; public; symbols central to the First Nations narrative; and naming of internal roads inspired by the First Nations narrative.”

According to Wagner, the LLPT must “invite and consider representations from at least the First Nations Collective before these are submitted as part of the relevant detailed landscape plan or building plan for each feature”.

US retail giant Amazon will be the anchor tenant, opening a base of operations on the African continent.

LLPT spokesperson Jody Aufrichtig said: “In these fraught times, we are proud that the River Club redevelopment can contribute to improving the quality of life of Capetonians, as well as the ability to sustainably live, work and play in our beautiful city together.”

Meanwhile, OCA chairperson Leslie London said: “The fact that the City have rejected our appeal comes as no surprise. The City never wanted anyone having a contrary view to theirs on this development, not even their own experts.

“The City’s own environmental management department, who were against it, were ignored. They have ignored all appeals, but we are going ahead with our court challenge regardless.”

On Monday, the Cape Argus reported that the OCA had launched a fundraising campaign to pay for legal action against the approval of the development.

Cape Argus

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