Amazon's Africa HQ Plan Angers Indigenous People In South Africa
Photo Credit: YASUYOSHI CHIBA

Photo Credit: YASUYOSHI CHIBA

Amazon's Africa HQ Plan Angers Indigenous People In South Africa

Cape Town , South Africa , news
Parker Diakite
Parker Diakite Jun 13, 2021

Jobs or heritage? That’s the question taking the center stage between local communities in South Africa and activists, who want the site of Amazon’s new Africa headquarters declared a national heritage area.

The Khoi and San communities are known as the first inhabitants of South Africa. A patch of land along the Liesbeek River in Cape Town, South Africa, is significant. That’s why leaders are protesting against what will eventually be a new 70,000 square-feet headquarters in Africa for Amazon.

“This is where land was first stolen,” Tauriq Jenkins, of the Goringhaicona Khoena Council, a Khoi traditional group opposed to the project, told Al Jazeera. “We want a World Heritage Site. We do not want 150,000 tons of concrete.”

The 37-acre riverside area was previously home to a golf-driving range and a popular bar.  A small blue plaque was the only evidence that it’s of historical significance. 

But now,  there are plans to build a nearly $284 million mixed-use development center with a hotel, retail offices and residential units. Amazon is reportedly rumored to be the anchor tenant as the retailer already employs thousands of people in Cape Town.

While some people have welcomed the economic opportunities, there has been a growing number of criticism and backlash from environmentalists and activists are holding marches and rallies at the proposed site, and now threatening legal action.

According to the Observatory Civic Association, which represents a nearby residential community, there have been nearly 50,000 objections recorded on record.

Activists want the development stopped, and the area declared a provincial or national heritage site. Environmentalists say it is important to preserve because it is an ecologically sensitive area at the confluence of two rivers.

“We will approach the courts,” says Martinus Fredericks, paramount chief of the Aman (Nama) Traditional Council. “We will mobilize every single Khoi and San person in the country to stop that development.”

In response to opponents, a spokesperson for Liesbeek Leisure Properties Trust (LLTP), the company in charge of the development told Al Jazeera, “There is no groundswell of unhappiness […] “The handful of vocal objectors who remain, who were given fair opportunity to participate, simply do not like the outcome.”

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