There has been a mixed reaction among representatives of South Africa‘s Khoi and San communities after a Cape Town court halted construction of Amazon’s new African headquarters on what some consider sacred land.
Tariq Jenkins from the group which brought the court application welcomed the order and said it would stop the project from proceeding.
“Our heritage is not for sale,” he said.
However, the First Nations Collective which backs the project, said it would urgently appeal against the judgement.
Referring to the cultural facilities included in the development plans, it said it wanted the court “to return all of this province and South Africa to sanity, namely that the Khoi and San people have every right to return to the areas from which their ancestors have been dispossessed”.
In an interdict pending a final review, Western Cape deputy judge president Patricia Goliath stopped all further construction pending the “conclusion of meaningful engagement and consultation with all affected First Nations Peoples” as well as the conclusion of a full court review of the permission to build.
The 4.6bn rand (£235m; $310m) development has divided Cape Town’s first-people communities, with different groups on opposite sides of the court battle.
The application to stop the construction was brought by the Goringhaicona Khoi Khoin Indigenous Traditional Council (GKKITC) and a local civic group, while a separate Khoi and San group, the First Nations Collective (FNC), supported the development.
The 14-hectare development site is situated on an ecologically sensitive and historically significant flood plain.
Tech giant Amazon is the anchor tenant in the multi-use development which will include retail, hospitality, residential and office space. Construction started in June 2021 and has cost 500m rand so far.
The disputed land is considered sacred by the Khoi and the San, who associate the site with early confrontations with Portuguese invaders and Dutch settlers in 1510 and 1659.
The San lived as hunter gatherers in Southern Africa more than 2,000 years ago. They were later joined by the Khoi pastoralists who moved south to settle in the Western parts of the country.