Amazon New Africa headquarters being built on hallowed ground: Indigenous communities protest

Environmental concerns were ignored when the project was given the green light

The Khoisan people of southern Africa. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Groups representing the indigenous Khoisan community, one of southern Africa’s original inhabitants, approached the Cape Town High Court on January 19, 2022 to halt the construction of Amazon’s 70,000 square meter African headquarters on land that they consider sacred.

The word Khoisan is a combination of the names of two ancient Khoi tribes Khoi and San. Members of the San tribe were hunter-gatherers for tens of thousands of years. The Khoi Khoi, who were pastoralists, joined them more than 2,000 years ago.

Members of the Goringhaicona Khoi Khoin Indigenous Traditional Council (GKKITC) and the Observatory Civic Association have filed an application to halt ongoing development in Cape Town by the Liesbeek Leisure Properties (LLP) Trust.

the legal action is against the developer of the LLP project, the city of Cape Town and the Western Cape Province as well as a group of Khoisan who support the development. The trial is expected to last three days.

Members of the Goringhaicona Khoi Khoin Indigenous Community performed a ‘smudging ceremony’ and prayer before heading to the Western Cape High Court for a three-day hearing to halt construction of the Liesbeek Leisure development Property Trust which will house Amazon’s African headquarters.

A section of the Khoisan people, the First Nations Collective (FNC) hailed the job prospect of the 4.6 billion rand ($259.03 million; over Rs 19,000 crore) development near Cape Town, including a hotel, retail offices and homes with Amazon setting up its office there.

“Heritage is not for sale”

The site sits at the confluence of two rivers – Black River and Liesbeek – and holds spiritual significance to the community. The construction would also block views of Lion’s Head Mountain, which is also considered sacred by Indigenous communities.

The history of reverence dates back to 1510, when Portuguese Viceroy Francisco de Almeida at the Battle of Gorinaiqua by the Gorinhaiqua Khoi in response to a Portuguese cattle raid.

The First Khoi-Dutch War (1659-1660) over access to traditional pastures was also triggered in the floodplains. The area has been identified as part of the Khoisan Heritage Project and the National Liberation Heritage Route.

The consultation process that led to the approval of the project only included the FNC, alleged the Goringhaicona Khoi Khoin Indigenous Traditional Council (GKKITC), the promoters of the deal. GKKITC said they excluded themselves, but that didn’t mean they didn’t want to be part of the process.

Under international law, companies must consult with indigenous communities on their own terms and conditions and not those of the company, the council stressed.

Species such as the African Clawed Frog, Cape Galaxies (a native fish) and several species of birds and insects live in and along the river, conservationists and community members pointed out. native.

The project plan includes infilling portions of a floodplain. This has led environmental experts, including some officials from the City of Cape Town, to conclude that the project does not fully consider the potential impacts of climate change.

“I think the worst-case scenario is that we have regular and very expensive flooding, and someone will have to pay for it,” said Nick Fordyce, president of Friends of the Liesbeek, a non-profit organization that works to the conservation of rivers.

Until two years ago, the site was a golf course. Currently the development is approximately two floors.

Amazon could pull out of deal to set up its African headquarters in Cape Town if legal challenge by indigenous activists is allowed to continue, says the news.

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