Massive win for Amazon’s new headquarters in South Africa

The developers behind the R4.6-billion multi-purpose complex in Cape Town set to house Amazon’s new African headquarters scored a major court win on Tuesday.

The Supreme Court of Appeal dismissed a previous decision by Western Cape High Court Deputy Judge President (DJP) Patricia Goliath ordering the developers to halt construction of the River Club project.

She had found that the developer had not conducted thorough consultations with the First Nations groups affected by the project.

That case was brought before the court by the Observatory Civic Association (OCA) and Tauriq Jenkins, who had claimed to represent the Goringhaicona Khoi Khoin Indigenous Traditional Council (GKKITC).

Opponents of the development argued that the site earmarked for the project was of great historical value to First Nations people.

They said its redevelopment would threaten their heritage while posing an ecological danger to the Liesbeek and Black River confluence and its surrounding environment.

The developer — Liesbeek Leisure Properties Trust (LLPT) — welcomed the latest judgment as a “massive win for jobs and heritage”.

The Supreme Court ruling was made by a full bench sitting in the Western Cape High Court.

“The judgment by Judge Baartman — concurred by Judge Slingers and Judge Lekhuleni — found that the applicants failed to establish a prima facie right, as they could not demonstrate that the right to heritage is at risk of suffering any harm, let alone irreparable harm, which is a jurisdictional requirement for an interim interdict,” said LLPT.

“On the contrary, the court papers indicated that the development might enhance the land’s resources having regard to the degraded state of the site when the authorisations were granted.”

Judge Baartman further found that the growth the development offered the First Nations Groups, the promotion of the site’s heritage value, and the opportunities for the unemployed in the province far outweighed the “unarticulated harms” in the case.

Construction of the multi-billion rand development at the River Club in Observatory. This is how it looked on Friday, 23 September 2022. Photo: Ashraf Hendricks / GroundUp

In addition, the judgment granted a recission application launched by the elders and members of the GKKITC against Goliath’s entire decision and orders.

“In their recission papers, the GKKITC elders accused Tauriq Jenkins of misrepresenting facts in the Goliath court hearing and subsequently trying to coerce certain First Nation parties into signing affidavits against their wishes,” LLPT explained.

Judge Baartman said she was persuaded that the original judgment by Goliath, which granted the interdict, was induced by fraud on the part of Jenkins.

“Mr Jenkins misrepresented the first applicants’ (GKKITC’s) constitution and did not have the authorisation to launch the proceedings that culminated in the judgment,” said LLPT.

“He further misrepresented the views of some indigenous leaders without consulting them.”

“The full bench judgment also rescinds Goliath DJP’s judgment and orders on these grounds.”

Tauriq Jenkins, accused of fraudulently representing the GKKITC

In another significant blow to the applicants, the OCA has been ordered to pay the legal costs of all the appellants in the original court matter and the appeal.

Aside from LLPT, the Western Cape provincial government and the City of Cape Town had joined the case as supporters of the development.

LLPT reiterated its previous stance that the River Club redevelopment would create “numerous” benefits for the city and the province.

“This includes 6,000 direct and 19,000 indirect jobs and the Cape Peninsula Khoi memorialising their cultural heritage associated with the area, including the establishment of a Heritage, Cultural and Media Centre,” it stated.

“The project will also deliver developer subsidised affordable housing, safe and accessible green parks and gardens, significant road and other infrastructure upgrades in the area and the major rehabilitation of the polluted and degraded waterways adjacent to the property.”

The developer added the judgment sent a clear message to those who tried to “stop development at all costs with little or no regard to the social upliftment of surrounding communities”.


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Massive win for Amazon’s new headquarters in South Africa