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River Club development whistle-blower reveals alleged bribery

Chief Autshumao Francisco McKenzie and First Nations leader Tauriq Jenkins outside the Western Cape High court during one of the hearings Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency(ANA)

Chief Autshumao Francisco McKenzie and First Nations leader Tauriq Jenkins outside the Western Cape High court during one of the hearings Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency(ANA)

Published Sep 16, 2023


A whistle-blower has been subjected to threats after he exposed alleged fraud and corruption in attempts to remove a key player in a court challenge against the River Club development.

A chief and founder of the Krotoa of the Goringhaicona, Ebrahim Abrahams, signed an affidavit in which he detailed how some members of  the  group allegedly worked together with members of the Liesbeek Leisure Properties Trust (LLPT) to defame First Nations leader Tauriq Jenkins.

In return, the members were allegedly promised R2 million and a house each.

Abrahams said he now faced threats as a result of the affidavit.

‘’I was threatened by an unknown person outside my home. I came home from work and entered my gated community. No one is allowed in unless they are given permission to enter by a resident.

‘’In front of my house, I saw a parked car which does not belong to anyone in the neighbourhood. The car had no licence plates ... to conceal identity.

‘’Immediately when I parked at my house, the person started the car and drove away. My neighbour told me the car was outside for a long time, waiting for me, and left in response to my arrival.

‘’This has never happened previously, and I have understood it to be a veiled threat in response to the affidavit.

Abrahams' affidavit  was corroborated by those of other three whistle-blowers, who also alleged that they were promised that ‘’everyone will receive a house and R2 million from the developers of what is commonly known as the Amazon development in Observatory.’’

According to the affidavits, part of the money was promised to be paid by December 2022.

However, none of them received the money.

Acting on behalf of the Goringhaicona Khoi Khoin Indigenous Traditional Council (GKKITC), Jenkins and the Observatory Civic Association (OCA) launched a court action in 2021 seeking a review of the approvals for the development on the ‘’sacred land’’.

The development is backed by Amazon, which plans to set up its African headquarters there.

On March 18, 2022, Deputy Judge President Patricia Goliath granted an interdict against the development and ordered for a ‘’meaningful engagement’’ with all interested and affected parties, including the indigenous people.

The developers petitioned the Supreme Court of Appeal and recommenced construction.

In July  2022, a group of former members of Krotoa of Goringhaicona launched court proceedings challenging the legitimacy of Jenkins to institute the case against the LLPT.

They alleged that a resolution was taken to strip Jenkins and Chief Aran of their positions within the GKKITC.

According to Abrahams, the signatories to that resolution were not members of the GKKITC, as claimed.

The sworn affidavit also detailed how the GKKITC was allegedly hijacked by three individuals tied to and pro-the River Club development.

Abrahams also alleged that he had a face-to-face meeting with LLPT's Jody Aufrichtig and ‘’his right hand man, Mark Fyfe’’ at a restaurant in Constantia.

‘’They wanted insider information with regards to the workings and politics of GKKITC. This information was critical to their strategy in so far as the litigation was concerned. I provided them with certain insider documents from the GKKITC. For my exchange of information and services, I quoted my price of R20 million in respect of Krotoa Group’’ said Abrahams in the affidavit.

He further claimed that in one of the subsequent meetings he attended, a lawyer asked for affidavits, which were ‘’later used misleadingly in support of the rescission application’’.

‘’The deponents in support of the rescission application misled the court,’’ said Abrahams and copies of registers of the meetings held, which clearly showed that those were held in the name of the Krotoa group.

Abrahams further alleged that members of the Krotoa group were all in financial distress and were vulnerable and ‘’were easy prey for the developers’’.

The affidavit also contained screen shots of WhatsApp conversations Abrahams had with, among others, the lawyer Tim Dunn, Aufrichtig and Fyfe.

When questions were asked to the LLPT regarding the alleged financial offers, meetings and the WhatsApp communications between Abrahams, Aufrichtig and Fyfe the Trust did not respond directly to the questions.

Rather, the LLPT responded by denying the allegations and said it had ‘’always acted professionally and ethically and with respect for all First Nations individuals and groups’ own agency.’’

‘’Any suggestion of impropriety is categorically denied and should instead be directed to Mr Tauriq Jenkins, who was found unanimously by a full bench of the Western Cape High Court to have acted fraudulently for various reasons that were spelt out in the judgment, including when he claimed to represent the Goringhaicona in his legal action against the River Club development,’’ said the developer.

Senior Chief Faraah September said the Goringhaicona ‘’felt betrayed’’ by their  own when the rescission case came up.

‘’The affidavits now show that our people were bought with promises to sell us out. It's sad that people's vulnerability could be used as a divide-and-rule tactic.’’

September said the GKKITC National Executive Committee, the highest decision making body, would seek justice.

‘’The development saga has torn the nation apart. Families have turned against each other. We will hold developers to account should anything happen to the whistle-blowers,’’ said September.

September called on President Cyril Ramaphosa to take action to protect the River Club site as an element of the larger Two Rivers Urban Park, identified as part of the National Khoi and San Liberation and Resistance Route.

Jenkins said in light of  the new affidavits, it was ‘’clear that the judiciary was lied to’’.

‘’We encourage more people to come forward with the truth and prioritise the dignity of the nation,’’ said Jenkins.

Last year LLPT got the green light to build its R4.6-billion headquarters after the supreme court lifted an interdict by the high court.