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River Club developers to blame for job losses - Vavi

Construction work at the site of the controversial River Club development was halted after the Western Cape High Court interim interdict. Picture: Ian Landsberg/ African News Agency (ANA).

Construction work at the site of the controversial River Club development was halted after the Western Cape High Court interim interdict. Picture: Ian Landsberg/ African News Agency (ANA).

Published Jun 22, 2022

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Trade union federation, SAFTU, has called on the developer of the controversial River Club to take responsibility for job losses and lack of consultation with indigenous people following the Western Cape High Court interim interdict that halted construction.

The Liesbeek Leisure Properties Trust (LLPT) said about 750 construction workers' short term contracts were suspended after the high court ruling in March halted the development backed by Amazon.

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However, the South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU) criticised the Trust for "blaming" environmental and civic activists, the Khoi and San people for the job losses.

SAFTU General Secretary, Zwelinzima Vavi, said in its ruling the high court had also noted that the Trust took the decision at its own risk  to continue with construction even though the matter was scheduled for litigation.

The Goringhaicona Khoi Khoin Traditional Indigenous Council and the Observatory Civic Association had lodged an application with the court, challenging the development on a site regarded as "sacred".

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"Formal objections to commercial development have been lodged for years by Khoi and San groups, who have remained steadfast against any form of commercial alteration to the site, due to its pre-eminent heritage properties, its historical, cultural and spiritual value, and its environmental sensitivity, " said Vavi.

He said workers were now being forced to pay the harshest price for "the greed and recklessness of private capital".

"Rather than accept responsibility for its failure to adequately consult indigenous groups before embarking on the construction phase of this risky enterprise, the developer is choosing to lay the blame of its failures at the feet of the activists and indigenous groups who opposed the project," said Vavi.

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He described the developers move as "scapegoating" and said the workers were not the "enemy of marginalised indigenous Khoi and San groups, who are merely fighting for their fundamental right to dignity and respect".

"We insist that the developer refrains from peddling false information and, instead, engages with the affected workers in attempts to remunerate them in a fair and equitable manner, given that they have been forced to carry the weight of the developer’s own negligence," said Vavi.

He also said Amazon had several alternative options to locate their headquarters but chose the site at the confluence of the Black and Liesbeek Rivers.

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The Trust filed an application of leave to appeal the interim interdict at the Supreme Court of Appeal.

The developers also announced this week that work was to resume at the site to ‘protect’ the existing structures and some jobs.

However, the Liesbeek Action Campaign (LAC) rejected the developer's statement.

"What they appear to be doing is to effect urgent remediation of the mess they created by rushing ahead with infill of the river and floodplain.A heritage crime has already been committed with the destruction and infill of the Old Liesbeek channel," the LAC said in a statement.

The LAC said the work was also being carried out to avoid a potential environmental disaster which could lead to flooding.

In response to the statements by the LAC and SAFTU, the developer said the remedial work currently taking place was on a  partially constructed building in order to prevent structural and related degradation.

"Furthermore, rehabilitation of the riverine corridors adjacent to the site will continue,“ said LLPT.

LLPT also dismissed SAFTU's statement regarding the loss of jobs as “not accurate".

"The LLPT looks forward to the final review matter being assessed by the high court," said the developer.

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