JOHANNESBURG – Plans to build an African headquarters for tech giant Amazon in Cape Town are in jeopardy when a judge ordered a halt to construction on Friday, arguing that developers had not properly consulted with local South Africans.
The 300 million development sparked a bitter feud within local, or First Nations, communities over whether building on what many consider sacred would desecrate their history and culture, or It will be developed, as the developer promised to add a local heritage center.
Western Cape High Court Judge Patricia Goliath found that the developer, by engaging in a biased consultative process, widened the divisions, excluding many local groups.
“The fundamental right of indigenous groups to culture and heritage,” he wrote, was in jeopardy in the absence of proper consultation.
The development site was recently a golf course and driving range called The River Club. Although First Nations groups differ on what happened at this exact location, the general consensus is that it belongs to a wider area where their ancestors first fought the colonial invaders, and where the South The first colonial land in Africa was stolen.
Construction began last year after the project was approved by city and provincial officials in the Western Cape, despite concerns raised by some government agencies that developers had misinterpreted local views. Not tested, or the ways in which development will reduce the hereditary value of the site. .
A First Nations organization and a local residents’ association have filed a lawsuit seeking to have the approval of city and provincial authorities revoked. He also asked a judge to stop the construction while the case was pending.
In his 79-page judgment, Judge Goliath said that if a judge found that the approval was improper, it would be difficult for the plaintiffs to obtain adequate relief if they were in the process of progress. He said that not only would construction have to be stopped, but that the developer would have to consult more locals.
“The judges went primarily with truth and justice,” said Leslie London, president of the Observatory Civic Association, an association of residents who sued the Goringhaikona Khoi Khoi Local Traditional Council.
The court should still review city and province decisions to determine if they are legally correct.
A statement from the property owner, Liesbeek Leisure Property Trust, said in a statement that it was “deeply disappointed” by the judge’s decision and was considering its legal options.
An Amazon spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.
As the controversy has escalated over the past two years, Amazon has remained silent. During a court hearing in January, a trust lawyer said construction delays would essentially derail the project, as Amazon Anchor is likely to withdraw as a tenant.
Last year, Cape Town Authorities celebrated Amazon. Choosing your city as the “base of operations on the African continent”. He said the company would create jobs and strengthen the region as a tech hub.
Judge Goliath was not impressed.
“This is ultimately about the rights of the local people,” he wrote. “The fact that development has considerable economic, infrastructural and public benefits can never undermine the fundamental rights of the peoples of the first nations.”
A group called First Nations Collective was formed in mid-2019 to support development, after Western Cape’s chief heritage authority said developers had not done enough to engage locals. Its leaders said they worked with the developers and persuaded them to build a heritage center and other features that honor First Nations people as part of the project.
It was a broad coalition of collective First Nations groups, one of its leaders, Zanziel Khoisan, said the consultation with the developer was effective. He said he intends to appeal the collective judge’s decision and “now intensifies the fight,” he said.
While Judge Goliath said she did not object to her support for the collective and development, she wrote that the developer had prepared a report that relied largely on collective ideas, while other local people Ignoring those who opposed development.
“The current tensions between First Nation groups reinforce the need for meaningful engagement and appropriate consultation,” he wrote.