Stop Amazon destroying Cape Town's biodiversity and heritage
The Amazon corporation is intent on turning the Liesbeek and Black River confluence into a set of concrete office blocks. The people have united to stop the destruction of a site of high environmental sensitivity and enormous heritage significance.
The Liesbeek and Black River confluence is one of important biodiversity, with rare and endangered plants and animals and is one of the last unhardened green spaces in urban Cape Town; it provides a green lung in an urban world and the wetlands is a last remnant of a historical flood plain. Local developers are placing 150 000 square meters of concrete to host Amazon Web Services as their anchor tenant. The Amazon development will raise the land up to 6,4m above natural ground level, increasing the risk of flooding and it will result in the infill of a river course, reducing our climate resilience.
The confluence is also a site of living Memory associated with Khoi resistance against the colonialism at the Cape, making it a site of great cultural and spiritual significance. It is a site representing the earliest acts of land dispossession resulting in the first frontier wars. It is therefore regarded as sacred for indigenous people. Many leaders openly speak about how intolerable the development is on a sacred site. For example, one indigenous leader lamented in a sworn affidavit in our court case that “the developer is putting our history in the grave. They are killing it. There will be nothing to show our children the place itself, where the most significant events happened.”
Massive public opposition to the re-development
Over 76000 people have already signed our petition, indicating their opposition to the development and more than 60 civic, environmental, indigenous, faith-based and social justice organisations have joined the Observatory Civic Association, the Goringhaicona Khoi Khoin Indigenous Traditional Council and the Two Rivers Urban Park Association to nominate the wider Two Rivers Urban Park, including the River Club site, for heritage status, leading to the formation of the Liesbeek Action Campaign - an all-inclusive campaign with people from all walks of life united in opposition to the Amazon development.
It is not just activists who believe the development is deeply flawed. Many government agencies tried to stop the development. Heritage Western Cape (the provincial government’s competent heritage authority), in their 2021 appeal, deemed the approval of the development as unlawful and the City of Cape Town’s Environmental Management specialists appealed the environmental approval on multiple grounds including threats to climate resilience, flooding and biodiversity management. In April 2020, an independent Ministerial Heritage Appeal Tribunal adjudicating provisional heritage protection of the River Club site found that “conservation efforts to preserve the heritage of the Indigenous First Nations' people and communities and protect their cultural rights, have been hamstrung by the 'politics of divide and rule'.” Finally, in 2022, the South African Heritage Resources Agency has begun a consultation as part of its processes.
Despite all of this, the developers have ploughed ahead with their construction and Amazon, who had 5 other suitable sites for the headquarters building, have remain silent about the ongoing destruction of the site in their name.
Why we need your support:.
We need your urgent support to continue our legal challenge to the destruction of the site. Halting this development will allow fair consultation with all stakeholders to co-design a solution that reflects heritage, the environment and the needs of the community.
We do not have access to the kind of funding that Amazon's clients can muster, to wage lawfare on us. Our legal fees have thus far been almost entirely funded through donations by people like you. While we have raised almost ZAR 1 million ($58,000) since we started the campaign, we desperately need another R 600 000 ($35,000) in donations in the next few months.
For more information about our campaign, please visit liesbeek.org.za