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Heritage not for sale’: Fight for River Club development to continue with another fierce court battle

Published Apr 12, 2022

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CAPE TOWN - The R4.5 billion development of the River Club Development site with tech giant Amazon as an anchor tenant is headed for another fierce court battle.

This after the City and provincial government confirmed they would also challenge Western Cape High Court Deputy Judge President Patricia Goliath’s interdict halting the development.

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Judge Goliath’s judgment and order contained a number of errors and were “fraught with misunderstandings about the wide public participation processes undertaken”, according to Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning Minister Anton Bredell.

Judge Goliath said the matter concerned the rights of indigenous people and the fact that the development has substantial economic, infrastructural and public benefits can never override the fundamental rights of the First Nations People.

Bredell said among the errors identified in the judgment were problems such as the court making a ruling on issues which were not argued by the applicants as part of their case.

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“The MEC was of the view that the court failed to undertake the exercise of weighing the balance of convenience, as it should have in an interdict application,” said Bredell’s spokesperson Wouter Kriel.

City spokesperson Luthando Tyhalibongo said they had launched an application for leave to appeal against the judgment.

“The City has no comment at this point in time,” he said

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The Liesbeek Leisure Properties Trust (LLPT) late last month also filed an application for leave to appeal the decision.

Reacting to the City and provincial government, the Liesbeek Action Campaign, a coalition including the the Goringhaicona Khoi Khoi Indigenous Traditional Council (GKKITC) and the Observatory Civic Association (OCA) asked why local governments were using public money to defend a private developer.

“Why is the City and Province pursuing this defence of a private development with public money? How many houses could have been built and how many jobs created for our people with these millions?

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“The courts did not consider hearsay, did not deprive the respondents of the opportunity to state their case and Judge Goliath’s reasoning is most certainly not misinformed about the public participation processes.

“Our case that there was irreparable harm to cultural and heritage resources should the development proceed, an argument we have been making throughout the process, but which has been strenuously ignored by the authorities, was deemed valid by the court.”

The group said the consultation order would have presented an opportunity for the developer and other parties to welcome a meaningful consultation process to secure heritage resources.

“In rejecting meaningful consultation, the respondents appear to be happy with the butchering of the original Liesbeek River course and desecration of a sacred floodplain. Let us remind them, this heritage is not for sale.”

Civic organisation SA1stForum convener, advocate Rod Solomons, said the argument of job losses was a “red herring.”

“This development should never have started on such a rich and important heritage site. We have so many more attractive options, from a spatial planning perspective.

“Why were areas like Khayalitsha and Mitchells Plain, even Atlantis, for example, ignored. These are areas needing this type of economic development, not the leafy suburbs where traffic congestion is also already a huge issue,” he said.

“We need to start looking at this MEC's track record, whether he bends over backwards to act in the interest of developers.

“When there are serious objections they conveniently hide behind the argument of thousands of jobs that are lost. Who would get these jobs and the juicy contracts?

“They can continue to do development but there are other sites where this can happen. So this argument of job losses is a red herring.”

Cape Times

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