Court halts River Club development in Observatory

Western Cape Deputy Judge President Patricia Goliath halted plans regarding the R4.5-billion development at the River Club site in Observatory, saying developers must "consult meaningfully" with all affected people.

The interim interdict, will remain in place, pending a review of the relevant environmental land use authorisations for the development on the historically and culturally significant floodplain.

The Observatory Civic Association (OCA) and the Goringhaicona Khoi Khoin Indigenous Traditional Council (GKKITC) submitted an application to the Western Cape High Court to review of the decision making process that lead to the granting of the approval for the development.

Development commenced in July 2021 where online retail giant Amazon was earmarked to be the main tenant.

Judge Goliath noted the importance of First Nation Peoples’ linkage to the site through lineage, oral history, past history and narratives, indigenous knowledge systems, living heritage and collective memory. She found that the fundamental rights to culture and heritage of Khoi and San peoples were under threat if the development was allowed to proceed.

Judge Goliath dismissed the idea that the developers’ claim to suffer financial loss were relevant. She concluded that the developers were fully aware of the risks they were taking in proceeding with the development when they knew the development was contested and subject to litigation.

She also dismissed the argument that the development has substantial economic, infrastructural and public benefits, because “this matter ultimately concerns the rights of indigenous peoples” and economic benefits “can never override the fundamental rights of First Nations Peoples.”

The group will do a walk and cleansing ceremony on Monday to ‘’stop the River Club destruction.’’ The event includes an interfaith and San and Khoi cleansing ceremony, with keynote speakers

Done By: Mitchum George