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26 May 2021

Dear <<First Name>>,

Apologies for not having updated you since March, but as you will see from the below we have been kept really busy with the latest developments around our campaign. We are now holding regular Monday evening meetings (via Zoom) for people to put forward their ideas on how to move our campaign forward. Please feel free to contribute to these meetings with your ideas and time. Send us an email at info@obs.org if you wish to receive an invitation to the next weekly meeting. 

Warm Regards,
Edwin Angless - LAC Communications

Update from Leslie London

Dear LAC Supporters

I am updating you on the current situation with regard to the River Club development

  1. The developers have secured the rezoning and the environmental authorisations they need for their development at the River Club. Our Appeals have been reject, respectively the City and by the Minister. We are therefore going to court to seek a review in the High Court of both decisions.
  2. The developer refused to give an undertaking to hold off on demolition or earthworks pending the matter being heard in the High court.
  3. We are therefore proceeding apace with assembling the legal arguments for the High Court Review.
  4. While the legal battle is unfolding, we are mounting a campaign through public events, social media and press covering, linking with other community struggles in South Africa and elsewhere. We held a very successful Freedom Day walk (A walk for freedom) from Oude Molen to the vandalised plaque commemorating Khoi history on the site, where local organisations and representatives of the Khoi groups protecting the Liesbeek valley participated in a ceremony to restore the plaque. About 250 people participated from a range of organisations from across Cape Town including a number of Khoi leaders who spoke out against the development and committed to the campaign. Alan Boesak spoke eloquently of the divide and rule that is being deployed by elites, including neocolonials from across the seas (referring to Amazon) whose actions are a betrayal of Khoi heritage.
  5. But the problem was that we were so successful in changing the narrative of what is going on at the River Club that the supporters of the River Club have turned to smearing the OCA and myself as chair for being anti-Khoi and being racist. Three anonymous emails were circulated to about 380 miscellaneous recipients with one clearly defamatory email trying to undermine our campaign.
  6. They even went as far as sending an anonymous email threatening our lawyers not to act for us in the court case. As a colleague described it, this is the behaviour of fascism, dressed up as Khoi agency. 
  7. Our Khoi partners have correctly identified this as an insult to the integrity and intelligence of the Khoi leaders active in opposing the River Club development. 
  8. Below you will see a response from the OCA rebutting this nonsense. Attached is a statement released by the A|Xarra Restorative Justice Forum, co-signed by 9 First Nation Group putting the lie to the claim by the Gorinhaiqua that they can speak with authority for all the Khoi nation.
  9. The anonymous emails were sent in the name of the First Nations Collective who have not distanced themselves from these defamatory emails. It is clear that those who want this development to go ahead are desperate and will sink to any depth to intimidate and manufacture fabricated claims to get their way.
  10. Our support is growing. If you have not already signed our petition against the development, please do so at our petition site (Please only sign and do not donate to change.org as that money does not come to us but serves only to boost the petition) where you will also find a great deal of information in the updates. We are nearing 50 000 signatures against this development.
  11. Please also support our fundraising drive at our fundraising site.
  12. The OCA will soon be marketing T-shirts, stickers and buttons for the campaign, to raise awareness and funds for our legal costs. Watch this space.

It is a long road ahead. But we will win this battle.

Please give us your support. If anyone wants to volunteer to assist on the Task Teams, please contact Edwin Angless at info@obs.org.za    

With thanks
Leslie London - OCA Chair

Statement from the OCA

The Observatory Civic Association (OCA) notes that an email was sent out over the weekend (Saturday, 15 May 2021) purportedly from the Chief Information Officer of the First Nations Collective (email address firstnationscollective@gmail.com) titled “First Nations Call for Suspension of UCT Prof Leslie London.” The writer made untrue and inflammatory statements about the actions of the Observatory Civic Association and the motives and intent of the Association’s Chairperson regarding their public opposition to the River Club development. 

The OCA regards the contents of the email and its allegations as unfounded and prima facie defamatory and have written to the spokespersons of the First Nations Collective to establish the authorship of the email, and to demand (a) either an apology, a retraction of the allegations and a commitment to desist from future defamatory and provocative emails; or (b) a public distancing from the email and its statements, which are without foundation. As yet, we have not had any response, either denying or acknowledging responsibility for these emails. We regard the distribution of anonymous emails in this manner as a reflection of the desperation to which those who support the development are willing to resort.

A history to this tactic:

It is not the first time that opponents of the River Club development have been subject to these kinds of anonymous smears, and it is unfortunate that those who support the development appear willing to entertain such dirty tactics. In February 2020, in the lead up to a Western Cape Provincial Heritage Appeal Tribunal meeting, a number of opponents of the River Club development, including a number of Khoi leaders opposed to the development, were targeted in a series of vituperous and defamatory emails. These emails were all anonymous, purporting to emanate from the A/Xarra Restorative Justice Forum. The emails labelled opponents of the development as thieves, fakes, gay dogs, descendants of colonialists, collaborators, perpetrators of institutional violence who will be held to account, fabricators, misfits, inkruipers, conmen, fugitives, fronts, snake oil salesmen, desperados, extortionists, scam artists, frauds, hypocrites, and hijackers.

The A/Xarra Restorative Justice Forum indicated it was not the source of the email and would never have sent such defamatory material, confirming that the email was misinformation deliberately sent to smear opponents of the development. The meta-data of those emails gave Mr Rudewaan Arendse’s name as the author. Mr Arendse is the heritage ‘consultant’ for the developers of the River Club. Mr Arendse subsequently denied he was the author or had anything to do with the defamatory emails. It is noteworthy that all meta-data have been removed from the recently sent email “First Nations Call for Suspension of UCT Prof Leslie London.”

Why are we now being targeted in this way?

There is another key Heritage Western Cape meeting coming up. It relates to the application by the Goringhaicona Khoi-Khoen Indigenous Council, the OCA and the Two Rivers Urban Park Association (TRUPA) for Provincial Heritage Status for the Two Rivers Urban Park, a site which includes the River Club property, which will be discussed at that meeting. The campaign initiated against the River Club has achieved remarkable interest from the press who are questioning the narrative driven by the developers, a narrative which seeks to present the First Nations Collective as the authoritative voice of the Khoi people and which seeks to portray the handing of custodianship to a select group of Khoi representatives as fulfillment of a right of return for the broader Khoi community. This is not the case.

We therefore interpret this malicious email as intended to intimidate the organisations and individuals opposed to the River Club development. The organisations which have joined together to propose that the TRUP site be graded as a Provincial Heritage Site, include the OCA, many civics and NGOs, but also a range of First Nation groups including the !Aman Traditional Council under Paramount Chief Marthinus, Taaibosch Kei Koranna Royal House under Ka’i Bia Taaibosch, Kai !Korana Transfrontier under Khoebaha Arendse, the Cochoqua Royal Council under Paramount Chief Johannes, the Southern African Khoi and San Kingdom Council, the First Indigenous Nation of South Africa, the Federation of First Peoples of South Africa, A/Xarra Restorative Justice Forum, !khoraIIgauIIaes Council, IKhowese Nama Traditional Council, the Western Cape Khoi and San Kingdom Council) and the Goringhaicona Khoi-Khoen Indigenous Council. The right of return exists for the entire gamut of Khoi groups, not just those favoured by the developers, who, in any event, retain ownership of the land.  

First Nations speak for themselves; the OCA does not speak for First Nations:

It is therefore wholly incorrect to portray the opposition to the destruction of intangible heritage at the River Club site as an agenda of white liberals. There are multiple Khoi indigenous groups, representing a wide range of interests, opposed to the development on heritage grounds. The OCA does not speak for them nor does it put words in their mouths. We do not act for them, but in support of them. For example, we did not ask KaiBl'a !Kora Hennie van Wyk of the Gorinhaiqua to join the OCA in opposing the River Club development at the first meeting of the Heritage Appeal Tribunal in 2018. We joined Chief van Wyk and many other First Nation leaders at the hearing who were united in opposing the development at the 2018 hearing. We did not manipulate any Khoi leaders into proposing the TRUP as a Provincial Heritage Site in February 2020 – they are quite able to exercise their own independent agency in the interests of their Khoi members – as is evident in the photos attached.

 If you wish to see a reasoned debate about the matter, rather than entertaining propaganda and misinformation, the OCA invites you to read the opinion piece by Chief Zenzile Khoisan in the journal New Agenda, and two responses, one from the OCA and one from the Goringhaicona at pages 31 to 41 of the journal. We believe these set out the different views on the matter fairly.

Why is there this attempt to create division?

It is divide-and-rule that has seen powerful elites achieve their goals over centuries, and it has been no different with colonial conquest in South Africa. The Heritage Appeal Tribunal for the Provisional Protection Order over the River Club noted in April 2020 the following with regard to the contestations over the River Club development:

The policy of maintaining control over one's subordinates or opponents byencouraging dissent between them, thereby preventing them from uniting inopposition, is evident in this matter. Conservation efforts to preserve the heritage of the Indigenous First Nations' people and communities and protect their cultural rights, have been hamstrung by the 'politics of divide and rule'. In a divided and disparate society that can benefit from and become unified through knowledge of each other's cultures and heritage, the current situation is not a good scenario to be in and this is unfortunate.

We believe that the subjugation of the riverine valley of the Liesbeek to commercial interests, backed by the money of Amazon, the corporation closely linked to the richest man in the world, is a continuation of that colonial process of divide-and-rule. In the words of Alan Boesak, it is the strategy of Jan van Riebeek, Cecil John Rhodes and apartheid leaders to “use our division to overcome us,” to “set us up one against the other”, which would enable them to “more easily fulfil that agenda” of colonial divide and rule. At a Freedom Walk on 27th April 2021, he appealed for unity in opposition to the River Club, rather than “fruitless competition amongst each other for some funds and little bit of pennies here and there” which were “bestowed” on some groups by “the new colonialists and the new imperialists of our day.”  

The OCA will continue to oppose the development and support efforts by First Nation groups who believe the development will destroy, not honour, Khoi history.

If you wish to support the OCA’s efforts to ensure the courts can scrutinise the fairness and validity of the authorities’ decisions to permit this development to go ahead, please feel free to donate at our fundraising website here. We believe this would be a just and fitting response to the attempts to undermine community leaders from both the Khoi indigenous community and the broader civic and NGO community, supported by a wide range of organisations and nearly 50 000 signatories on our petition against the development.

A few days ago, a supporter of our campaign posted the following on our Petition site: “I am a DIRECT DESCENDANT of the first people of South Africa and I have had ENOUGH of the violations against our people, our sacred spaces and history. ENOUGH!”

She has spoken the truth to power.

Statement from the A|XARRA Restorative
Justice Forum

Greetings 

In response to the email that we all received, please find the following statement and call for solidarity.

The A|XARRA Restorative Justice Forum together with the Khoi and San Kingdom Council of Southern Africa, the Goringhaicona Khoi Khoin Traditional and Indigenous Council, the Cochoqua Royal Council, the Kai Korana Transfrontier, the !Aman Royal Council, First Indigenous Nation of Southern Africa, Democratic Federation of Indigenous People of South Africa, !khoraIIgauIIaes Council and Khowese NamaTraditiona lCouncil, stand in  solidarity and defence of activists, traditional leaders, academics and allies who are being targeted because of their position against the Amazon River Club Development.

We assert our deep concern over the malicious and defamatory email addressed to the University of Cape Town by an anonymous entity purporting to be the First Nations Collective. 

The contents of the email are not only offensive and egregious but a complete distortion of our view regarding Prof Leslie London in relation to the proposed Amazon Development. 

We wish to make it clear that Prof London is a partner of the A|XARRA, an anti apartheid activist, and a prolific activist in health and human rights. He, during the Fees Must Fall protests marched with his faculty in support of his students and immediately instituted negotiations and talks. 

His work and solidarity with us in heritage protection of our sacred areas, and in activism and research on alcohol fetal syndrome is of vital importance. 

The contents of the email is an insult to the leadership in our cohort, and to the broader San and Khoi as it insinuates that Prof London is misleading the San and Khoi groups against the development on the River Club site. This is an insult to our integrity and intelligence. 

We represent a wide scope of traditional and political affiliations in the various Khoi and San cultural, and revivalist formations nationally. Our position has for years been very clear on the development from the moment it was first announced in 2017. This has not changed. We assessed rigorously the developments impact of heritage, and environment, have actively engaged in the various complex participatory engagement processes, and have responded both collectively and as individuals in protest to what we consider a severe threat to intensely significant tangible and intangible heritage and environment.  

We condemn attacks of this nature on human rights defenders, and activists and conscience driven scholars who work to radically address the inequalities entrenched in our societies.  

The attack on activists regarding this Amazon development is not unusual. Almost all the leaders of the AIXARRA Forum have been subjected to vitriolic smear campaigns and severe threats.

That Prof London’s private contact details, and home address are included is certainly designed to intimidate his sense of personal and family safety. 

We condemn in no uncertain terms this attack on our colleague and comrade, and on the University's commitment to research, teaching, public debate and community engagement. South Africans fought hard to create an environment against Apartheid type censorship. The Fees Must Fall Movement has reminded us of the ongoing work to break the barriers between academic silos and the relevance of the work in terms of how it relates to broader society. One of the most important democratic rights in the South Africa constitution is the right to free speech and freedom of association. We all have the right to engage purposefully in our history of entanglement. 

In this regard a petition of support has been drawn up by our structures. We call on our Khoi and San leaders, activists, the academic community, students, citizens to place your support for the protection of people like Prof Leslie London.  

We note the epistemological violence of these smear campaigns. The false and divisive narratives constructed speak also to the racist and ethno-nationalist sense underlining their content which when left unaddressed pose danger to our intellectual pursuit toward decoloniality. It replaces cultural debate, dialogical engagement, the rigour of robust research with fascist intimidation and violence. 

This re-engenders the colonial divide and rule and pits Africans against each other. 

By using a claim of cultural agency, this entity has unlawfully granted themselves permission to threaten with an open display of violence all in the name of San and Khoi in Southern Africa. 

Not in our name. 

We treasure our environment, our sacred spiritual heritage and the dignity of knowing who we are. Our values are founded on the principles of unity, healing and restorative justice. 

Kai gangans 
Chair : AIXARRA Restorative Justice Forum
Tauriq Jenkins, High Commissioner Goringhaicona Khoi Khoin 

Traditional and Indigenous Council on behalf of :

Paramount Chief  Marthinus Fredericks, Khoi and San Kingdom Council of Southern Africa 

Paramount Chief Aran, Goringhaicona Khoi Khoin Traditional and Indigenous Council 

Paramount Chief Johannes, Cochoqua Royal Council

Khoebaha Melvin Arendse, Kai Korana Transfrontier

B'ia Bradley Van Sitters, !khoraIIgauIIaes Council

Khowese NamaTraditional Council

!Aman Traditional Council

Rev Fick, chairperson First Indigenous Nation of Southern Africa

Rassool Snyman, regional organiser, Democratic Federation of Indigenous People of South Africa

Please add your details here to endorse this statement, as an individual or group, or both.

For further context please see the following links :

Alan Boesak's Full Speech on Walk of Resistance

https://www.facebook.com/saltriverheritage/posts/3898651740172595

https://www.groundup.org.za/article/support-property-developer-angers-khoi-leadership/

https://www.groundup.org.za/article/city-cape-town-tribunal-gives-go-ahead-mega-development-two-rivers-urban-park

https://mg.co.za/opinion/2020-09-24-how-to-whitewash-colonial-pain-and-trauma/ 

https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2020-12-16-amazon-in-africa-a-walk-through-history-in-the-two-rivers-urban-park/

https://www.iol.co.za/capeargus/news/resistance-walk-along-liesbeek-river-against-new-amazon-development-007901e1-e5e5-479c-ab08-61267f683527

To view 47 000 objections to the development - https://www.change.org/p/department-of-environment-affairs-and-development-planning-voice-your-opposition-to-the-river-club-redevelopment-preserve-environment-and-heritage

UPDATES from our Change.org Petition Site
Below you can find some recent updates from our Change.org campaign.

NOTE - Please only sign and do not donate to change.org as that money does not
come to us but serves only to boost the petition.

 
Please join us in this battle and sign our petition
48,502 have signed. Let’s get to 50,000!
SIGN OUR PETITION HERE
Money can’t buy the truth
Leslie London
Cape Town, South Africa

14 MAY 2021

It seems the LLPT is intent on pursuing their development. We wrote to them on Tuesday 11th to ask they hold off on any earthworks pending a High Court Review. They replied the next day declining to do so. So, we are heading to the High Court.

Please support our fundraising at our fundraising site as this will be an expensive challenge. We are up against interests that have a lot of money, including those aligned with the richest man in the world. So, this is a real David versus Goliath challenge. And in case you are wondering, we haven’t yet had any reply to our appeal to Ms Mackenzie Scott, Bezos’ former wife, who is amongst the richest women in the world, and has committed herself to being a billionaire philanthropist.

Money clearly does make a big difference. For example, the First Nation groups who support the River Club development were able this week to distribute a 16-page colour newspaper, titled First Nation News, in hard print copy, throughout parts of Observatory. We don’t know how many copies were distributed but that’s an expensive business to print 16 pages of colour newspaper and hand deliver to hundreds of households. The newspaper has never been circulated in Observatory before so we can only assume it is a reaction to a very successful Freedom Day Walk in which different stakeholders, including a number of First Nation groups, spoke out against the River Club development as an insult to First Nations (see the picture above).

Where did the funding come from all of a sudden to produce a 16-page colour newspaper and distribute it? Well, we wrote to Jody Aufrichtig of the LLPT to ask if he funded it but he didn’t reply so we don’t know if he did or if he didn’t. But since it contains numerous hagiographic descriptions of how Jody has been very receptive to the First Nation Collective, you might be mistaken for assuming it was some kind of advertising for this development.

But Jody’s reluctance to say where he puts his money is not new.

READ MORE & SIGN THE PETITION
We start the legal battle to
Make the Liesbeek Matter
Leslie London
Cape Town, South Africa

11 MAY 2021

To all our supporters (and there are thankfully thousands of you),

We are starting our legal battle today. I paste below a letter to the developers drafted by our lawyers on our instructions, asking the LLPT to indicate that, given the importance of the matter, they will stay any commencement of any earth works, demolition, excavations or alterations to the Site until the OCA's review application has been determined. The OCA intends to institute review proceedings by 21 June 2021.

Now we really need your financial support as this will be a long and costly case. Any donations on the Change.Org site here will help to spread the petition but do not go to  our funds for our legal battle or other parts of our campaign. So, if you do want to please help to secure justice - Please support us at our fund-raising site here. 

thanks, Leslie

READ MORE & SIGN THE PETITION
READ the OCA's legal repsonse here
The Amazonification of the
Liesbeek River Valley
Leslie London
Cape Town, South Africa

9 MAY 2021

It’s now no secret that Amazon are the driver behind the River Club development. Pro-development groups gush over the fact and welcome Amazon’s investment in Cape Town, but never stop to ask why Amazon has turned a sacred heritage site and environmentally sensitive floodplain into an investment opportunity when there are many other alternative sites in Cape Town. We are up against Jeff Bezos, the richest man in the world, as well as influential and powerful South African investors when we challenge this development. So, we need your help to raise funds for our court case and campaign – please help us fight this Goliath by donating to our cause.  

We have twice written to Jeff Bezos and received no reply. We don’t know if he is misinformed or uninformed or if he prefers not to know. But it’s odd that a man who professes to believe that “Climate Change is the biggest threat to our planet” should support a development authorisation that the City’s Environmental Management Department believes “does not give due consideration to climate change impacts and resilience.” In fact, the City’s own environmental scientists point out that “the EA decision does not give sufficient weight to the environmental impacts that would result from the scale of development and infilling of the river corridor and floodplain associated with the development proposal, most of which is below the 1:10 year floodline. These significant impacts will result in future risks and costs, particularly in the context of Climate Change and the reduced role of the site as green infrastructure which supports a resilient future. The development proposal is also in conflict with historical planning for the area as predominantly open space and part of the coast-to-coast greenway.” They mention Climate Change concerns 26 times in their appeal against the Environmental Authorisation and state clearly that the authorisation does not align with the City of Cape Town Climate Change Policy.

So, why does Jeff Bezos, who is throwing billions from his wealth to support Climate Change advocacy groups, want to associate with this intrusive and unsustainable development?

READ MORE & SIGN THE PETITION
Democracy and a hole in Jody’s bucket
Leslie London
Cape Town, South Africa

24 FEB 2020

Forgive me but this update is a bit extended. It contains four parts, all of which are really important to understand for this campaign.

Firstly, I received a phone call from Jody Aufrichtig this evening, unsolicited. It wasn’t very pleasant. He told me that I had defamed him and he would be suing me for defamation. He has told other people as well that he will be suing me. That’s all very peculiar because it’s not clear to me what he feels defamed about. Criticism is not the same as defamation. And why would I defame someone whose surname translates from the German as sincere, honest and genuine?  You go figure…

But actually, what this smells, feels and looks like is a SLAPP suit, as in Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation. It’s a common practice by the rich and powerful to try to intimidate communities, tie them up in expensive lawsuits and distract them from the campaign that the rich and powerful find troublesome. It was recently used by the Australian Mining Company MRC to harass environmental rights activists defending the rights of the community of Xolobeni threatened by mining interests, which the community has opposed for 18 years.

Clearly, Jody thinks he can distract us from our campaign by coming up with a nonsensical accusation of defamation.

But one thing Jody doesn’t realise is that we live in a Constitutional democracy that protects the rights of citizens to be active participants in matters that affect them. Not surprisingly, Civil Society has responding by launching a joint advocacy campaign known as Asina Loyiko - United Against Corporate Bullying  – and we certainly aren’t going to stop because of trumped up charges of defamation that have no basis.

Secondly, we received some good coverage in the Argus today. However, one small correction to Marvin Charles’ article is that it is not the case that the petition “has been given to the Department of Environment Affairs and Development Planning.” We have not handed over the petition yet – it is very much still open, so please sign up and encourage others who feel strongly about this to do so as well.

READ MORE & SIGN THE PETITION
Thousands of supporters want to make the Liesbeek Matter!

07 May 2021

This was quite a week.

Not only did the ANC suspend its secretary-general, and the US president did a flip to support the global call for a waiver of Intellectual Property Protection for COVID-19 vaccines, but the numbers of supporters of our cause has rocketed since we undertook our Freedom Walk to reinstate the plaque commemorating Khoi history. Tens of thousands of supporters have since joined this campaign which says no to profit-driven development at the expense of environmental protection and respect for heritage.

Nonetheless, earlier this week, the developers sent objectors a Notice of Intention to Commence Construction along with a Grievance process should we be discomforted by dust, noise, traffic or other disruption. They announced that they plan to start construction in mid-June. Which means we have to get into court quickly to stop the development and to do that, we need your financial support – you can make a contribution at our fundraising site. Please donate to our cause, no matter how small or large, it will make a huge difference.

Even though the developers sent another email later that day withdrawing the notice, all signs are there that they are on full steam ahead. The developers have put up metal fencing on the perimeter of the River Club and have given notice to the staff working in the River Club establishments. You can see the fencing in the image above.

Nevertheless, we are hugely encouraged by the support this petition has been given over the past few days and are going to challenge this injustice in court.

We are resolute and with your support, justice will prevail.

READ MORE & SIGN THE PETITION
OCA’s open letter to McKenzie Scott
- former wife of Jeff Bezos and the third richest woman
in the world with a net worth of $53 billion

04 May 2021

Dear Ms Mckenzie Scott

I write to you as the chair of the Observatory Civic Association, a small community civic in Cape Town, South Africa that prides itself on active citizenry towards civic democracy.

Our Civic, which has a long history of community activism, is currently partnered with more than60 First Nation Khoi Indigenous organisations, NGOs and other Civic Associations to ensure that there is heritage protection of an environmentally sensitive and cultural significant piece of land between the Black and Liesbeek Rivers, known as the Two Rivers Urban Park. The River Club is a small part of the Two Rivers Urban Park on which private developers have proposed to develop a massive, dense mixed-use complex which will house the Africa Headquarters of Amazon. That Amazon wish to be associated with a development that is on a sacred floodplain, and which has met fierce opposition from Khoi first nation leaders (whilst finding some willing to support the development) as well as infill a flood plain in ways that contradict existing Climate Change resilience policies of the City, must surely be of deep concern to anyone who believes in a world where environmental protection, justice and heritage, particularly for First Nation groups, should be adequately considered in development decisions. I attach some information on a recent event on South African’s anniversary of our transition to democracy (recognised as Freedom Day) where a diverse group of organisation walked to commemorate Khoi history and oppose the River Club development.

We believe the entire process in which this development has unfolded has been problematic, and City Planners and other authorities have ignored key reasons why you should not be building 150 000 square metres of concrete on a sacred floodplain. The competent Heritage Authority for the Province turned down the application because the Heritage Impact Assessment failed to identify heritage indicators and simply retrofitted its HIA to allow this dense development without recognising the intangible heritage of this area – and area where the Khoi defeated the Portuguese colonial expedition more than 500 years ago, and where the first wars of resistance against Dutch land dispossession took place. The Open Space character of the site was identified as key to the intangible heritage of this site; yet the Environmental Authorities rode roughshod over this neglect of intangible heritage. As a result, the environmental authorisation for the development was described as illegal by the Heritage Authorities. Similarly, the environmental impacts did not include a Climate Change study and sought to minimise the impact of the development on flooding of the nearby area. The City’s own heritage and Environmental Management experts did not support the development, yet the City authorities were willing to approve the development based on promised economic developments.

It is Amazon that is at the centre of this travesty. It’s 44m high buildings will dwarf any nearby structures including the South Africa Astronomical Observatory, a National Heritage Resources slated for nomination as a UNESCO Heritage site. The area is part of the National Khoisan Liberation Route, a presidential project which will affirm Khoi history and heritage. But once the excavations happen and the infill of land by 3 metres of additional soil is completed, along with the obliteration of the original course of the Liesbeek River, there will be no going back and Amazon will sit astride this destruction.  As stated by Tauriq Jenkins, the High Commissioner for the Goringhaicona Khoen-Khoi Indigenous Council, the development is “poison to our sacred confluence, poison to our fish, birdlife and animals, poison to the soul of this space. We say no to the concrete on the floodplain, the infill of the river, to the loss of memory to a mall with hotels. We will not bid the kingfisher farewell.:

For that reason, the OCA and its partner organisations will be taking the matter to court, to turn back the permitting decisions.

Although we have written to Jeff Bezos twice to appeal to him, we have never received any reply. We can’t say that whether he is misinformed or unaware but we have tried out best to alert Amazon that this is not the site to destroy in order to create another mega-office complex cum commercial campus with 2000 parking bays. We appeal to you to intervene to bring Amazon to its senses.

And if you wish to assist our struggle for justice in the courts, we will welcome your financial assistance.

There is more information at the Observatory Civic Association Website and our petitionwith multiple updates. There has also been a vigorous debate in the press (for example, the decision being a slap in the face of indigenous people) and various opinion pieces, including the one by aKhoi defender of the development whose Khoi group has been promised custodianship of part of the precinct and two responses in the journal New Agenda on pages 31 to 41 rebutting such misinformation.

We look forward to hearing back from you.

Yours sincerely,
Leslie London - OCA Chairperson

The River Club development:
What is really at stake?
By Leslie London

Leslie London is chairperson of the Observatory Civic Association. He has been a human rights activist in the health sector for many years and has become involved
in civic democracy, more recently helping to found, with other civic activists, the network of Civic Action for Public Participation (CAPP), which is committed to building participatory governance at local municipal level.

There is no doubt that the River Club redevelopment is controversial. There are many reasons for that. Firstly, it is redevelopment of land that was once public land, owned by PRASA but sold off to a private entity at way below market rates in 2015, at a time when State-Owned Enterprises were being gutted by profiteers. Secondly, it is land that everyone recognises as spiritually significant and deeply important for the Khoi people and for South Africa as a whole. It is slated for inclusion in the National Khoisan Liberation route in recognition of its symbolism as a site of first resistance to settler domination. It has also been proposed as a UNESCO heritage site, along with the South African Astronomical Observatory next door, which was founded in 1820. Thirdly, it is a site with an important wetland and a riverine course that requires protection for climate change mitigation. 

As a flood plain, it was zoned as Open Space to recognise the importance of maintaining both its heritage and environmental significance. To build in a flood plain is completely contrary to urban planning policies and requires massive and very destructive earthworks to infill the flood plain. Because of the huge cost of such massive construction, the developers have proposed a development of colossal proportions, much higher and denser than any existing urban cluster nearby, and they are proudly declaring that this will be the South African headquarters of the international Amazon corporation. 

The developers specifically discounted any alternatives that were less dense and less imposing on the environment because they would not make sufficient profit to meet the massive capital investment. 

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When it flows, it floods

By Tauriq Jenkins

Tauriq Jenkins is Supreme High Commissioner for the Goringhaicona Khoi Khoin Traditional Indigenous Council under Paramount Chief Aran

In 1996, the Khoi and San were not part of the Constitution.
Then President Thabo Mbeki’s “I am an African” speech, with the founding of South Africa’s Constitution, would remain in its nascent stage until the fullness of the African body was completed. 

For it is in the unmistakable lines of a shared history of resistance that we ultimately are one nation. Above all else we are African. 

At the confluence of the waters of the Black River and the Liesbeek River, the Khoi collectively sustained the longest resistance against colonial oppression which fanned out across the subcontinent for 169 years. It spanned 16 Khoi wars, the last five of which were fought together with the AmaXhosa in the East. David Stuurman and prophet leader Makhanda fought side by side and were captured and taken to Robben Island. 

Our matriarchal guide, Krotoa, brought with her an umbilical connection with the Dutch. We share a history too with Portuguese, English, Irish, Scottish, German, Flemish, French, Swiss, Russian, Greek and Turkish influences. The intermingling of these groups forged mixed groups, and the etchings of the Afrikaans language began to emerge on the banks of the Liesbeek River as first frontier. 

Our claim is the human claim. The controversial development on the floodplains of the oldest urbanised river valley in South Africa is a tale of where  much of what we have become begins. At the foot of Devil’s Peak, which forms part of the Hoerikwaggo, a mountain that rose from the sea and is older than the Himalayas, is the Liesbeek river. The memory of it speaks to the root of mankind itself. 

The Observatory itself was built on a hill where our ancestors navigated the stars and with the kindred and sentient fellowship of the Quagga, Cape Lion and Blue Buck. Their permanent departure from the valley and the face of the earth, together with the Cape San, flowed from the genocidal menace of colonial conquest and theft. 

The embankments on what is today’s Two Rivers Urban Park (TRUP) are a place of return. It is the place of the first victorious line of defence against a colonial aggressor, Franciso D’Almeida, the Portuguese viceroy who vanquished India in 1510. It is also the place of loss – the First Frontier War in 1659, theft of land, the first evictions of the indigenous Khoi Khoi, the deployment of agricultural slaves in 1657 with the establishment of the Free Burgher Farms. This is where we came undone. 

Today, the most significant heritage battle ensues with a threat of a
R4.5 billion development on its sacred terrain. It is led by a local developer backed by an enterprise with coffers amassed as the vOC (Dutch East India Company) itself did at its peak 360 years ago. The significant impact of the genocidal smallpox epidemics on the Khoi and San notwithstanding, part of the TRUP is Ndabeni, the first black township which was built to quarantine migrant (mostly Xhosa-speaking) labourers when the city was hit by the bubonic plague. 

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786 Radio interview on the
River Club development
Click HERE to Listen
Is South Africa ready for the Amazon effect?
The announcement that Amazon will set up South African headquarters in an R4 billion Cape Town development was met with excitement and concern. Picture: Abhishek N. Chinnappa/Reuters

NEWS | By Wesley Diphoko  | May 2, 2021

The announcement that Amazon will set up South African headquarters in an R4 billion Cape Town development was met with excitement and concern. It was exciting to those who care more about the economy and jobs but concern by environmentalists and those who care about heritage. 

There’s one concern that has not been raised yet and it relates to what is known as the Amazon Effect. It is known as the powerful disruption that e-commerce has made on the retail market. The term came about as a result of Amazon's dominant role in the e-commerce marketplace and leading the disruptive impact of the industry. Based on recent developments it seems the Amazon Effect is coming for South Africa.

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Cape housing activists reject R4bn River Club development.
WATCH HERE
’This land is sacred’: Cape Town authorities slammed for approving River Club development
A commemorative plaque, which was vandalised eight months ago, was restored during a march against the River Club development on Tuesday. Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency (ANA)

NEWS | By Francesca Villette | Apr 28, 2021

Cape Town - The City of Cape Town and the Western Cape provincial government have come under fierce attack for “supporting”, through its recent decisions, the further trampling of indigenous land for profit – a phenomenon in the Cape that spans nearly 400 years.

Hosting a walk of resistance against the R4 billion River Club development in the Two Rivers Urban Park yesterday, organisers said it would take a push-back from everyone to prevent the DA-run administration from allowing history to repeat itself.

High commissioner of the Goringhaicona Khoena council Tauriq Jenkins, Imam of the Claremont Main Road Mosque Rashied Omar, anti-apartheid fighter Reverend Allan Boesak, and chairperson of the Obs-Mowbray Shul Mark Turok led the procession of around 100 people. 

Khoi leaders and concerned citizens from groups including the Observatory Civic Association were in attendance.

The walk followed the City’s approval of the River Club development in Observatory, and followed the provincial Environmental Affairs and Development Planning department’s Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) decision. The redevelopment, on 15 hectares of land, is set to include shops, restaurants, offices and a hotel, while US retail giant Amazon will be the anchor tenant.

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Liesbeek Action Campaign communications Issued by Edwin Angless

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