Second victory for Amazon’s new headquarters in South Africa

The developers behind the R4.6-billion multi-purpose River Club complex in Cape Town that will house Amazon’s new headquarters in South Africa have scored another victory against opponents of the development.

On Tuesday, Judge MJ Dolamo struck an application for an interdict against ongoing construction at the site off of the Western Cape High Court roll, ruling that it lacked urgency.

The Observatory Civic Association (OCA) had approached the court to obtain an urgent interdict against the developer — Liesbeek Leisure Properties Trust (LLPT) — to stop its work at the site.

That came after Judge Patricia Goliath previously ordered LLPT to halt construction at the site pending “meaningful” consultation with groups claiming to represent indigenous people impacted by the development.

After Goliath also struck down LLPT’s application for leave to appeal her ruling, the developer applied to the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA), which agreed to hear its appeal application.

LLPT has maintained that it can continue work at the site until the outcome of this appeal is heard by a full bench of the Western Cape High Court on 11 and 12 October 2022.

LLPT described the ruling as a win for the hundreds of workers currently on site.

“Pending the outcome of this hearing, the work on site continues lawfully,” LLPT said.

Part of the proposed development of the River Club site involves building a bridge from Berkley Road in Ndabeni, which ends under the M5 on the east bank of the Black River, over the river to join Liesbeek Parkway. The confluence of the Liesbeek and Black Rivers is a sacred site for some South Africans. Photo: Ashraf Hendricks

The developer previously warned that Amazon was running out of patience with delays to the project.

At the time, LLPT spokesperson and trustee James Tannenberger said the company had been advised that further delays could push progress back between 12 and 24 months.

“Any such delay would almost certainly see Amazon Development Centre (ADC) terminating the development agreement and the lease agreements, as it would be entitled to do. Indeed, even a reduced delay of six months will result in termination by ADC,” said Tannenberger.

Amazon had already agreed to reset the practical completion date and its lease commencement date.

Failure to meet these newly agreed-upon dates could result in a penalty of R450,000 payable to Amazon per day that the project is behind schedule.

In addition, LLPT would have to pay R115 million for standing time to contractor WBHO and a further R23 million to Rand Merchant Bank in cancelled loan agreements penalties.

The developers, Western Cape government, and Cape Town metro have also warned that failure to realise the development could cost thousands of jobs in the long run.

An impression of the proposed River Club development contained in the Basic Assessment Report, a public document produced by SRK Consulting

In addition to striking the interdict off the roll, Judge Dolamo granted the elders and tribe members of the Goringhaicona Khoi Khoin Indigenous Traditional Council (GKKITC) — another group representing indigenous people from the area — leave to intervene in the appeal application.

The GKKITC supports the development and has challenged the leader of one of the opposition groups — Tauriq Jenkins — and his attorney’s authority to represent them.

The GKKITC has also applied to the Western Cape High Court to have all matters against the River Club development withdrawn.

Another group supporting the development — the Western Cape First Nations Collective — clashed with Jenkins and the OCA outside court in July 2022, calling them traitors and brandishing posters with slogans such as “The River Club Supports Khoi Heritage” and “Khoi Welcome Amazon”.

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Second victory for Amazon’s new headquarters in South Africa