Independent Online

Friday, August 19, 2022

Like us on FacebookFollow us on TwitterView weather by locationView market indicators

River Club development, backed by Amazon, halted but four storeys already built

The Western Cape First Nations Collective (WCFNC), a group in favour of the project, confronted GKKITC high commissioner Tauriq Jenkins, calling him a sell-out and not representative of the indigenous peoples. Picture: Ian Landsberg/African News Agency (ANA).

The Western Cape First Nations Collective (WCFNC), a group in favour of the project, confronted GKKITC high commissioner Tauriq Jenkins, calling him a sell-out and not representative of the indigenous peoples. Picture: Ian Landsberg/African News Agency (ANA).

Published Mar 22, 2022

Share

Cape Town - Clashes ensued between first nation groups at the River Club on Monday, in the wake of an interdict in the Western Cape High Court which ordered construction on the River Club development to be stopped.

Four storeys of the R4.6 billion project, which will house Amazon’s headquarters in Africa and create about 6 000 jobs, are already built.

Story continues below Advertisement

In her ruling, Western Cape Deputy Judge President Patricia Goliath stated that the site had a deep sacred linkage to the indigenous people.

“The fact that the development has substantial economic infrastructural and public benefits can never override the fundamental rights of First Nations Peoples,” she said.

The judgment further stated that the site had a deep sacred linkage to the indigenous people.

The Western Cape First Nations Collective (WCFNC), a group in favour of the project, confronted GKKITC high commissioner Tauriq Jenkins, calling him a sell-out and not representative of the indigenous peoples.

Jenkins said: “Consultation has taken on the behaviour of divide and rule, how consultation has in fact torn communities apart. I feel the judge is very concerned with the need for cohesiveness and unity.

“In terms of the case itself there is a group that have signed themselves into a contractual arrangement with the private developer; they’ve gone into an economic agreement which was not done with any transparency and meaningful consultation with the rest of the San and Khoi groups.

Story continues below Advertisement

“What is the dignity in employing people on very short term contracts, they can’t be unionised because they don’t know how this court case is going to be, digging up terrain that is sacred to their ancestors.

“So the whole jobs argument is basically a trope that is only convenient to the City of Cape Town and the province,” Jenkins said.

WCFNC said it intended to appeal against the interdict which ordered that the developers refrain from any further construction, earthworks or other works on the site pending meaningful engagement and consultation with all affected First Nations Peoples and the outcome of a review application of the decisions made by the City and the province.

Story continues below Advertisement

WCFNC’s Princess Chantal Revell said this judgment will take away the hope given to people employed at the site.

“The current workforce is about 43-48% that’s on the site and we fought hard for more than eight years to get this social contract signed in order for our people to benefit from this development.

“Never in history has there been a development of this magnitude where the First Nations have any say. With the job loss, the hope that we’ve given families, this hope is going to be taken away just like that,” Revell said.

Story continues below Advertisement

Observatory Civic Association (OCA) chairperson Leslie London said: “We’re very pleased that the judge ruled as she did, she didn’t rule in our favour, she ruled in favour of the truth and in favour of justice.

“The City and the developers were well aware of what was going on when they approved this, and they could have approved the development somewhere else.

“Amazon had five other sites shortlisted. Had they chosen one of the other preferred sites, they could have finished building their headquarters by now and people would have had jobs, so this is not a question of taking people’s jobs away.

“If the approval was illegal, does it make it okay to create jobs, why would we accept something that is illegal or unlawful and should be permitted just because it creates jobs and benefits for some people because that is essentially what corruption is doing.”

When the groups dispersed, a cleansing ceremony was held at the park where the campaign was supported by other organisations, Extinction Rebellion and Oude Molen Eco Village (Omev).

Omev secretary advocate Rod Solomons said: “This is a historic moment both for the protection of our heritage and for how we deal with developments here and in the country.

“People thought there were four levels of their development already, they’ve thrown thousands of cubic metres of cement in the rivers, they spent millions and they said we are wasting our time but our Constitution will always triumph everything.”

The Liesbeek Leisure Property Trust has expressed disappointment at the judgment.

“The Liesbeek Leisure Properties Trust (LLPT) is deeply disappointed by the outcome of the interdict application to stop the R4.6 billion River Club redevelopment in Observatory, Cape Town.

“The LLPT’s legal team is studying the judgment circulated by the Deputy Judge President’s registrar and considering the legal avenues available to it in the circumstances.”

The City said that it will be studying the judgment. By the time of publication, the Western Cape government had not yet responded to questions.

[email protected]

Share