Activists recently criticized a South African court ruling that allowed Amazon‘s new African headquarters to begin construction. This is a blow to indigenous groups who claim the development will their desecrate ancestral homeland.
Developers have the approval to resume work on a multimillion-dollar project. The project will house the US tech giant’s offices after it was stopped by the previous court’s decision.
The High Court in Cape Town recently delivered the following ruling: some indigenous leaders’ views were misrepresented without consulting them, according to a representative of several groups opposed to the construction.
Campaigners opposed to the development expressed their disappointment with the verdict.
A group of campaign organizations for indigenous people released a statement saying that they don’t believe that the facts presented before the court enabled the judge to make a fair judgment.
The case that pitted indigenous groups against property developers does not specifically mention the Amazon.
The first approval came from city authorities last year for the construction of a nine-storey commercial. It also included the construction of a residential complex on a greenfield site. The development will be anchored by Amazon.
However, after indigenous people filed a lawsuit, work on the $4 billion ($225 million) complex was suspended in March of this year.
Why Amazon’s new African headquarters construction was opposed
The development sits on a site where the Khoisan, some of the country’s original inhabitants, claim their ancestors engaged in a fight with Portuguese colonizers in 1510.
The Khoisan suffered greatly under colonialism and apartheid as they were once hunter-gatherers known by the discarded label of Bushmen.
In South Africa, indigenous communities still struggle with significant social inequalities. The communities also face a lack of economic activity and a history that is often ignored.
Amazon’s new African headquarters will be located on an old golf course. It will have a total floor area of 70,000 square meters or approximately 10 football fields.
In a country with cripplingly high unemployment, the project holds promise for thousands of opportunities.
As a result of the developers’ agreement to build a heritage, cultural, and media center that will be run by indigenous groups, a number of Khoisan groups have come out in favor of the project.
Amazon’s South African Headquarters Project Faces Backlash
The Goringhaicona Khoi Khoin Indigenous Traditional Council (GKKITC) has filed an order against Amazon‘s current building project near the Liesbeek River in Cape Town, where the internet retailer plans to create its Amazon African headquarters. This is in contrast to The First Nations Collective (FNC), a fellow Khoisan organization that supports the building project.
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One of the attorneys representing the GKKITC, Hercules Wessels, senior associate at Cullinan and Associates, said that they were arguing that the consultation process was flawed from the start and that the fact that the GKKITC did not participate in that specific consultation did not mean that they waived their right to any consultation.
Meanwhile, the FNC stated that they support the proposal because of the “world-class facilities” that will “empower the First Nations.” An indigenous garden for growing traditional medicinal herbs, an amphitheater where the group may perform traditional songs and dance, and a cultural media center are among the amenities available.
Petition Against the Amazon African Headquarters Planned Location
More than 56,000 individuals signed a petition against the almost $300 million construction. The business in charge of the building is Liesbeek Leisure Properties Trust (LLTP), which claims the project would create employment, attract foreign investment, and improve Cape Town’s quality of life. The location, which is located at the confluence of two rivers, is the ancestral home of Southern Africa’s early Khoi and San people.
For these indigenous peoples, it has cosmological, spiritual, and environmental importance. Following their triumph over the Portuguese, the Khoi went on to fight the Dutch in 1659. After the Dutch won, colonial governor Jan Van Riebeek initiated a land-disposal campaign, which academics and activists argue lay the groundwork for what would eventually become apartheid white minority rule.
The land still holds a lot of historical, spiritual, and cultural significance to the Khoi people. The battle over the construction of the Amazon African headquarters on this land is still ongoing.