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Attempts to resume River Club development fail

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The proposed River Club Development.
The proposed River Club Development.

Western Cape deputy judge president Patricia Goliath has dismissed the application for leave to appeal the River Club development interdict, which halted the construction of the R4.6 billion project expected to house US retail giant Amazon’s African headquarters.

Members of the Liesbeek Action Campaign, which includes indigenous groups and environmentalists, filed an urgent court interdict in January, in a bid to halt the construction of the 15-hectare parcel of land, owned and operated by the Liesbeek Leisure Properties Trust (LLPT), expected to house several large commercial businesses.

The legal battle sought to permanently halt the construction of the Observatory-based River Club, after LLPT, along with affiliates, was accused of potentially causing irreparable environmental harm in favour of commercial interests.

After the court interdict was granted to the plaintiffs last month, the defendants − consisting of the LLPT, City of Cape Town, Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning, and First Nations Collective − launched separate appeals against Goliath’s decision to halt construction of the site.

However, the judge dismissed the applications, noting she had considered all of their arguments and found them without merit.

Since any appeal would therefore not have any reasonable prospect for a successful outcome at a different court, she turned down their leave to appeal.

“We believe the significance of this finding reaffirms the strength of our constitutional democracy. Government authorities are not above the law and cannot make decisions without public consultation processes that are meaningful, particularly where they impact permanently on the rights of indigenous people,” says a statement issued by the Liesbeek Action Campaign, Goringhaicona Khoi Khoin Indigenous Traditional Council and Observatory Civic Association.

“The judge agreed with our counsel’s arguments that the developer proceeded in full knowledge of the likely court challenge and that there was no compelling evidence of irreparable harm to the respondents, who would have every opportunity to argue their case in the forthcoming review proceedings. She reaffirmed the legal argument that the protection of the constitutional rights of indigenous groups was a crucial consideration, hence the finding that the interim interdict was appropriate in the circumstances.”

LLPT had previously vowed to contest the interdict, noting it had led to the immediate suspension of thousands of permanent jobs in the Western Cape.

The development is expected to create 6 000 direct jobs in total (800 of these jobs will only be created when the development is complete) and an additional 19 000 indirect jobs, notes LLPT.

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13 Aug
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