Reports from Sunday, March 20 state how a South African court has suspended the construction of the new Africa headquarters of Amazon Inc. The halt came following some descendants of South Africa’s earliest inhabitants claimed the land assigned to the headquarters as sacred. The Western Cape division of the High Court prohibited the developer of the project to carry on working at the site. The halt at Cape Town will be present till there had been sone meaningful involvement and consultation with the indigenous peoples impacted.
The groups of the Khoi and the San are possibly some of the earliest groups to inhabit South Africa. For tens of thousands of years, the San roamed around as hunter gatherers. On the other hand, the Khoi fused with them emerging as pastoralists over 2,000 years ago. Some of the descendants of these groups had opposed to the development on the River Club.
The River Club is the site of the building where Amazon Inc would essentially be the “anchor tenant.” However, the project appears to include other plans such as that for a hotel, retail offices, along with houses. This is owing to its location, that has a convergence of two rivers. These two rivers, the Black and Liesbeek rivers have attained the status of being sacred. Notably, not everyone from the Khoi and San groups were opposed to the project. In fact, an alliance of some supporters among the two were amidst the respondents in the case.
“This matter ultimately concerns the rights of indigenous peoples …. The fundamental right to culture and heritage of indigenous groups, more particularly the Khoi and San First Nations Peoples, are under threat in the absence of proper consultation,” Judge Patricia Goliath said in her ruling.
Notably, Amazon Inc was not listed as a respondent. In fact, the retail giant did not acknowledge any requests made via email outside working hours, for a word on the situation. Earlier, when the court case was initiated, a spokesperson refused to comment on the happenings. Judge Goliath specified that her ruling should not considered a criticism of the project. The issue that required focus was the need for appropriate consultation prior to the project’s implementation.
In Cape Town, Amazon already has thousands working in its data hub. Moreover, more than a third of unemployed heads in South Africa are welcoming foreign investment on the land. In fact, the River Club construction carried on in spite of the case going to court.