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Activists aim to interdict River Club development as matter kicks off at Western Cape High court

Cape Town - 160809 - The River Club in Liesbeek Parkway, Observatory is to undergo new development. A place to meet and play since 1939, The River Club is a landmark Cape Town conference centre and golfing hub. ItÕs also a magnet for family-friendly refreshment and entertainment. Picture: David Ritchie

Cape Town - 160809 - The River Club in Liesbeek Parkway, Observatory is to undergo new development. A place to meet and play since 1939, The River Club is a landmark Cape Town conference centre and golfing hub. ItÕs also a magnet for family-friendly refreshment and entertainment. Picture: David Ritchie

Published Jan 19, 2022

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HEATED exchanges characterised the start of the showdown at the Western Cape High Court on Wednesday as activists looked to stop the development of 150 000m² of concrete at the River Club site in Observatory, including a headquarters for Amazon.

The Goringhaicona Khoi Khoin Indigenous and the Traditional Council and the Observatory Civic Association (OCA) have brought an application to interdict the development from proceeding on the site.

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Before the organisations’ lawyer Alan Dodson could proceed, Judge Patricia Goliath emphasised that there was no dispute regarding the history of the site and said she was aware of its tangible and intangible heritage value, directing Dodson to answer questions around Heritage Western Cape’s suggestion for consultation which the applicants allegedly did not participate in.

“I am trying to establish, were they excluded by their own accord or by design? Who refused to participate in the public participation process and who was excluded?” she asked.

Dodson responded that anyone who was not willing to join a group called the “First Nations Collective” were excluded.

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“It was not their choice not to participate, it was stipulated that they had to join the First Nations Collective.”

Judge Goliath further wanted to know, “What does the applicant want, should the court side with the applicant?”

To which Donson responded: “What the applicants want is a statutory compliance process, they want it declared as a heritage site. If one looks at the perspective of the Khoi and San, their universe is based on land, nature and people, they want the entire area to be restored back to as close as possible, how it was before it was taken.”

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The Liesbeek Leisure Properties Trust (LLPT), the City of Cape Town, the Western Cape Government and the Western Cape First Nations Collective are opposing the application.

“These (applicants) and their small but active group of proponents have been driving a misinformation campaign about the River Club property and the planned redevelopment over the past few years after their concerns were validly dismissed by the competent authorities during the comprehensive three-year development approval process,” the LLPT said.

The matter continues.

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