Victory for Amazon’s South African headquarters

The City of Cape Town has accepted a settlement offer by the Observatory Civic Association for the complete and final cessation of all legal action regarding the River Club dispute.

The R4-billion development, being built in Observatory by Liesbeek Leisure Property Trust (LLPT), will have e-commerce and cloud services giant Amazon as its anchor tenant.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, the City of Cape Town said the Observatory Civic Association (OCA) would contribute to the metro’s legal costs.

“The City is pleased with this outcome and the clear message it conveys — that the City will always vigorously defend planning decisions taken correctly, and will act to protect Cape Town’s reputation as a leading global investment destination,” said Cape Town mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis.

Geordin Hill-Lewis, Mayor of the City of Cape Town

The settlement follows the Supreme Court of Appeal’s refusal last month to grant the OCA permission to appeal a Western Cape High Court ruling dismissing an interdict against the River Club development.

Cape Town said the River Club development is now proceeding based on the conditions of its planning approval.

These would bring significant economic, environmental, and heritage benefits for Cape Town and its residents, the metro stated.

According to Cape Town, the benefits include:

  • rehabilitating a portion of the Liesbeek River
  • creating high-quality green open space
  • establishing heritage infrastructure in partnership with First Nations groups
  • creating more than 5,200 construction jobs and approximately 19,000 employment opportunities
  • establishing public transport infrastructure
  • injecting R4.5 billion of direct investment into the local economy; and
  • delivering new residential accommodation, including affordable housing

At the heart of the dispute over the development are rival South African First Nations groups.

Chief Zenzile Khoisan, First Nations Collective

The Goringhaicona Khoi Khoin Indigenous Traditional Council (GKKITC) represented the side opposing the development, whereas the First Nations Collective represented those in favour.

The Collective, led by Chief Zenzile Khoisan and a coalition of First Nations leaders, signed a social compact with the Liesbeek Leisure Properties Trust following talks over the development.

The trust said that the agreement would see the heritage, history, and culture of the First Nations group preserved on-site through various features.

These include creating an indigenous garden, a heritage eco-trail, a garden amphitheatre, and other symbols central to the First Nations narrative.

Tauriq Jenkins, Supreme High Commissioner of the Goringhaicona Khoena Council

“This is the first developer in South Africa’s history to honour indigenous groups,” stated Khoisan.

“It’s a massive triumph because the entire 6km of this site is going to be landmarked with the searing narrative that represents our dispossession, our genocide,” he said.

“All of the crimes that have been committed are going to be signposted across this entire development.”

However, the GKKITC, under Tauriq Jenkins, argued that the development would run roughshod over their sacred heritage and that the developers had not consulted as widely as they claimed.

Ultimately, the merits of the case did not decide the outcome, but rather legal technicalities.

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Victory for Amazon’s South African headquarters