Construction of Amazon's new African headquarters in South Africa has been halted. Representatives of two ethnic groups filed complaints. According to the Khoi and the San, the HQ encroaches on sacred territory.
Representatives of the descendants of South Africa's original inhabitants, the Khoi and the San, filed a complaint on Wednesday to try to stop the construction of Amazon's new headquarters in Africa. The online retail giant's 70 square meter HQ is reportedly being built on land considered sacred.
The two groups have sued the South African developer of the real estate project, Liesbeek Leisure Properties Trust (LLPT). The latter is accustomed to scandals, with a board of directors made up purely of descendants of Afrikaners. The company has, since its launch, won government contracts running into the billions.
Still not over how Transnet sold the Cape Town River club (worth R100m) to a private trust (Liesbeek Leisure Properties) for R12m. Now the city and LLPT want to erect an inevitably pro-rich R4bn project there.
— Zak Senpai (@KamikaZaky) April 20, 2020
Faced with the controversy, the LLPT denounces a misinformation campaign against it. According to its spokesperson Jody Aufrichtig, a large part of the Khoi and the San welcome the installation of Amazon on their ancestral lands. The project involves the construction of hotels, hospitals and social housing for the natives.
For their part, the leaders of the Khoi and San communities consider the construction on the ground, a few kilometers from Cape Town, as “troubling”. “There is nothing sacred in this world anymore,” laments Tauriq Jenkins, a member of the Khoi Council.
What risk for Amazon?
For its part, questioned by several media, Amazon refused to comment on the controversy. For the South African authorities, who encourage this project, they above all refer to the job creation in perspective.
The Amazon HQ construction site is at the confluence of two rivers, the Black River and the Liesbeek. The project also includes the flank of Lion's Head Mountain, a peak of paramount importance for the fight against colonization in the country.
The Khoi and the San have been displaced several times from a large part of South African territory. First by the migratory wave coming from Central Africa, then by the Dutch settlers, then by the Portuguese.
Moreover, the site concerned by the dispute would be the site of a battle between the Khoi and the San and the Portuguese colonists, won by the natives. Since then, the site is considered sacred for the blood that was shed there, and would include spiritual faculties for the communities. "For us, this is the epicenter of resistance to colonialism," said Tauriq Jenkins.
In any case, the legal action - an emergency summary - against LLPT, will be studied before next Monday. If the courts decide to block the site, this would give rise to public legal action, with Amazon in the dock.