A significant court victory for the ZAR 4.6 B (USD 300 M) multipurpose complex in Cape Town that will house Amazon’s new African headquarters was registered on Tuesday. A prior ruling by Western Cape High Court Deputy Judge President (DJP) Patricia Goliath directing the developers to suspend work on the River Club project was overturned by the Supreme Court of Appeal.
It had earlier been put forward that the developer had not conducted thorough consultations with the First Nations groups affected by the project. The Observatory Civic Association (OCA) and Tauriq Jenkins, who represented the Goringhaicona Khoi Khoin Indigenous Traditional Council, took the case before the court (GKKITC).
The project’s target site, according to the development’s detractors, holds significant historical significance for First Nations people. They claimed that its reconstruction would endanger their cultural heritage and endanger the Liesbeek and Black River confluence as well as the area around it.
The recent ruling was hailed by the developer, Liesbeek Leisure Properties Trust (LLPT), as a “major triumph for jobs and heritage.” A full bench of the Western Cape High Court issued the Supreme Court’s decision, as reported by Mybroadband.
“The judgment by Judge Baartman — concurred by Judge Slingers and Judge Lekhuleni — found that the applicants failed to establish a prima facie right, as they could not demonstrate that the right to heritage is at risk of suffering any harm, let alone irreparable harm, which is a jurisdictional requirement for an interim interdict,” said LLPT.
“On the contrary, the court papers indicated that the development might enhance the land’s resources having regard to the degraded state of the site when the authorisations were granted.”
The growth the development provided for the First Nations Groups, the promotion of the site’s heritage value, and the opportunity it provided for the province’s unemployed people significantly surpassed the “unarticulated harms” in the case, according to Judge Baartman.
A rescinding application brought by the elders and GKKITC members against the entirety of Goliath’s judgement and orders was also allowed by the ruling.
“In their recission papers, the GKKITC elders accused Tauriq Jenkins of misrepresenting facts in the Goliath court hearing and subsequently trying to coerce certain First Nation parties into signing affidavits against their wishes,” LLPT explained.
The initial Goliath judgment, which awarded the interdict, was allegedly influenced by fraud on the side of Jenkins, according to Judge Baartman, who expressed her conviction about this.
According to the LLPT, “Mr Jenkins misrepresented the first applicants’ (GKKITC’s) constitution and did not have the authority to start the procedures that led to the verdict.”
“He further misrepresented the views of some indigenous leaders without consulting them. The full bench judgment also rescinds Goliath DJP’s judgment and orders on these grounds.”
The OCA has been ordered to pay the legal fees of every appellant in the original court proceedings and the appeal, dealing the applicants yet another setback.
The Western Cape provincial government and the City of Cape Town had joined the case as proponents of the development in addition to LLPT.
The River Club reconstruction will result in “many” benefits for the city and the province, according to LLPT, which reaffirmed its prior position on the matter.
“This includes 6,000 direct and 19,000 indirect jobs and the Cape Peninsula Khoi memorialising their cultural heritage associated with the area, including the establishment of a Heritage, Cultural and Media Centre,” it stated.
“The project will also deliver developer subsidised affordable housing, safe and accessible green parks and gardens, significant road and other infrastructure upgrades in the area and the major rehabilitation of the polluted and degraded waterways adjacent to the property.”
The developer noted that the verdict sent a strong message to those who sought to block development especially when it puts the socio-economic upliftment of nearby communities in jeopardy.
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