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Protesters to descend on Amazon’s planned Cape Town HQ

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A group of protesters is set to picket at tech giant Amazon’s proposed headquarters in Cape Town tomorrow.

The Liesbeek Action Campaign will hold a placard protest against the US-based tech giant.

In April, the City of Cape Town approved the Cape Town-based R4.5 billion River Club Development – a 15-hectare parcel of land for development owned by the Liesbeek Leisure Properties Trust, which will house the new Africa headquarters of US retail giant Amazon.

The city’s concept approval of the re-development of River Club came after the planned precinct received much opposition from environmentalists, the Khoi and the San groups, who had raised concerns that the new development would lead to the land losing its historical significance.

In a complaint lodged with the Planning Appeals Advisory Panel last year, the groups submitted a petition with 400 signatures, saying the construction on the floodplain between the Black and Liesbeek rivers would result in increased risk of flooding and environmental exploitation.

They also argued the area must be preserved because it is at the junction of two rivers, making it ecologically significant.

However, their complaints fell on deaf ears after the City of Cape Town stated the treasured piece of land will unlock economic opportunities for SA, creating up to 19 000 indirect and induced jobs.

Bulldozing its way

In a statement, the protesters say tech giant Amazon wants to build its African headquarters on the floodplain at the confluence of the Black and Liesbeek rivers.

They note the development entails 150 000 square metres of concrete bulk, which violates environmental principles, both nationally and internationally, including the Paris Agreement.

“Already, bulldozers have begun destroying the land – in our view this is unlawful. The Observatory Civic Association and Goringhaicona Khoi Khoin Traditional Indigenous Council have launched legal proceedings and will have this matter heard in court on 24 and 25 November.”

The Liesbeek Action Campaign notes Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, announced at COP26 that he will commit $2 billion towards climate change mitigation in Africa.

“Yet, this development is the antithesis of what he is pledging, since it is a green lung of the city, as well as a delicate ecosystem and site of endangered flora and fauna,” says the group.

According to the BBC, Bezos said his Bezos Earth Fund will spend $2 billion restoring landscapes and transforming food systems.

It reports he told the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow that he had grasped nature's fragility when he travelled into space.

Entrepreneurs, including Bezos, have been criticised for spending money on trips into space instead of solving problems on Earth.

Amazon has also been criticised by its workers over environmental practices, says the BBC.

The Liesbeek Action Campaign points out the planned Cape Town office area is a ground zero precinct for the San and Khoi.

“A site that recognises the untold holocaust that ensued over a century-and-a-half, wiping out indigenous communities while forcing them into exile. The first Frontier Wars were fought here in 1659, which resulted in a 180-year series of wars of resistance by the San and Khoi, resulting in the genocide of the Cape San, the extinction of sacred animals, ethnocide and forced removals of indigenous people,” says the group.

Rich history

It adds the area is the epicentre of liberation and resistance, starting in 1510 against the Portuguese, and where land was taken for the first time in 1657 by the Dutch East India Company, as well as sacred terrain to San and Khoi.

“It is where the concept of privatising land for extractive commerce while exploiting indigenous communities and deploying slaves for agricultural labour purposes began in South Africa.”

The protesters also note the area is undergoing a National Heritage grading nomination, and part of a precinct slated to be a Unesco World Heritage Site is under imminent threat of destruction.

According to the group, it is worth noting that Amazon was responsible for emitting 60.64 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide in 2020.

“We don’t understand the logic of destroying a sacred landscape in Cape Town and then performing on a world stage as a great philanthropist for climate change mitigation. So, on 12 November, we plan to hold a placard/banner demonstration along Liesbeek Parkway and a ceremony at the Liesbeek River to coincide with the end of COP26.”

Amazon SA did not respond to ITWeb’s questions on the matter.

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10 Aug
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