Amazon Africa HQ site facing indigenous backlash

CAPE TOWN (AFP) – A legal battle is looming over plans to build Amazon’s multi-million-dollar African headquarters on land cherished by South Africa’s indigenous Khoi San people.

Amazon is setting up its African HQ in Cape Town – a project with the promise of thousands of jobs in a country where unemployment is cripplingly high.

City authorities last month approved the construction of a nine-storey business and residential complex on a greenfield site that will be anchored by Amazon. Its offices will provide total floor space of 70,000 square metres – equivalent to almost 10 football pitches.

But some of the country’s first inhabitants, the Khoi Khoi and San – whose presence in the southern tip of the continent has been dated by archaeologists to thousands of years – said the project desecrates ancestral land.

They said it lies on a battlefield in which the Khoi defended the territory from Portuguese colonisers in 1510.

“Our heritage will be completely wiped out,” Paramount Chief Aran Goringhaicona told AFP this week. “There is so much spiritual significance to this place.”

He represents the Goringhaicona Khoi Khoi Indigenous Traditional Council (GKKITC), which is among the indigenous, environmental and community activists contesting the scheme. Led by a neighbourhood group, the Observatory Civic Association (OCA), they wrote to the developer Liesbeek Leisure Properties Trust (LLPT) this week stating their intention to appeal the project in the courts.

Construction of the ZAR4 billion (USD283 million) complex is due to start little more than a month from now.

An Amazon worker packs items at the Amazon Fulfilment Centre in Peterborough, east England. PHOTO: AFP