The Western Cape High Court has dealt another major blow to the construction of Amazon’s new African headquarters in Observatory in Cape Town.
The developers behind the R4-billion River Club mixed-use complex with Amazon as anchor tenant have been denied leave to appeal a court order halting construction.
On 18 March 2022, the court’s deputy judge president Patricia Goliath granted an interdict ordering developers Liesbeek Leisure Property Trust (LLPT) to urgently stop building at the site.
She also ruled that LLPT must first have meaningful engagement with the Khoisan groups who had sought the interdict, claiming the previous consultation processes were flawed.
Together with the City of Cape Town, Western Cape Government and First Nation Collective, the developers applied for leave to appeal the ruling.
LLPT maintained it had consulted sufficiently with all affected parties and gained the support of impacted Khoisan groups and also claimed that South Africa would lose around 6,000 direct and 19,000 indirect jobs if the order remained in place.
“It is clear that the court failed to consider properly, or at all, the evidence that by interdicting the LLPT from carrying out any construction work, the LLPT and the wider community would suffer severe and irreversible harm out of all proportion to that which might be sustained by the applicants, and none was evidenced by them,” the developer argued.
The city labelled the judgment as vague and unworkable because it failed to state clearly who must be consulted and how such consultation would be regarded as “meaningful”.
But on Thursday, Goliath struck the application down, stating she had carefully considered her judgment and concluded that the arguments raised against it were without merit.
“I have considered whether the appeal would have prospects of success, and I am convinced that there is no reasonable doubt that this appeal would succeed,” her order stated.
LPPT said it was deeply disappointed with the decision and would approach the Supreme Court of Appeal in Bloemfontein to appeal her judgment.
“This is a massive blow to all the people of Cape Town who stand to lose significant economic, social, heritage, and environmental benefits,” the developer stated.
“This includes 6,000 direct and 19,000 indirect jobs that will be lost — including the 750 construction workers who had been working on the site when the interdict ruling was delivered — and the Cape Peninsula Khoi being unable to manifest their intangible cultural heritage associated with the area, including the establishment of a Heritage, Cultural and Media Centre.”
“The provision of developer-subsidised inclusionary housing, the provision of safe and accessible green parks and gardens that will be open to the public and the major rehabilitation of the polluted and degraded waterways adjacent to the property, including the Liesbeek River, into a beautiful naturalised riverine environment will also be lost,” it added.
LLPT said its legal team is studying the judgment and will communicate further in due course.