The recent struggle faced by the Khoi and San people of South Africa over their land being used to build Amazon’s African headquarters brings back to light never ending issues: the appropriation of indigenous land by mega corporation, with the cooperation of local governments. While sometimes these local governments are powerless in the face of seemingly great deals that will “foster the local economy”, very often the governments are led by corrupt or ignorant individuals who seek immediate personal gains at the expense of the well-being of their communities (recent events in Sierra Leone). Lastly, why is it that it is always on “significant” indigenous lands that this occurs? Why not elsewhere? Of all places to build headquarters, couldn’t Amazon with its money find another piece of land in Cape Town? I am not against “development” or providing jobs to communities, but I wonder why these disputes are always recurrent. The excerpt below is from the BBC.
Campaigners in the South African city of Cape Town are trying to halt the building of the African headquarters for Amazon. It’s a battle that pits cultural concerns against economic interests, as the BBC’s Vumani Mkhize writes.
It is an overcast day in Cape Town and the scenic Table Mountain is shrouded in a ghostly cloud that silently cascades down the rocky green slopes. At the foot of this historic landscape, a small group of activists from the Khoi and San communities have gathered near the entrance of a huge building site known as the River Club. The communities are seen as some of the earliest inhabitants of southern Africa.
… Across the road from where the activists have gathered, construction is already under way. …
The first phase of the nearly $300m (£215m) development, which will include the Amazon offices, is set to be completed in two years. However the Khoi and the San are determined to stop it.
Tauriq Jenkins, of the Goringhaicona Khoena Council, a Khoi traditional group, says the land has profound historical and cultural value to his people. “This place for us is sacred because it’s on a confluence of Liesbeek and Black Rivers. These embankments are known as the birthplace of the Khoena [Khoi] people,”
he tells the BBC.
It is also where the European colonisers had their first battle with South Africa’s indigenous people, which is marked with a blue plaque.
The 150,000 sqm development will include residential properties and shops as well as offices.
The Amazon site, which is seen as key to pulling in other companies, is set to take up nearly half the space, from where it will run its bourgeoning operations across Africa.
… Jody Aufrichtig, who heads the project, says the development will provide a massive boost to Cape Town’s tourism-reliant economy, hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. He said it would create 6,000 jobs during construction and about 13,000 indirect jobs. “It’s so desperately needed, especially post-Covid and some of the riots and troubles we’ve had in South Africa. It will give the people of Cape Town and South Africa hope and economic development.” [yeah right… so unless it is built on this specific site, there will be no jobs for South Africans? Of all the places to build, it had to be that one? Will elsewhere in Cape Town still not provide jobs to South Africans?]The tussle between the developer and the indigenous people of Cape Town comes amid the biggest unemployment crisis South Africa has ever faced.
… The site of the development is where the first conflict between the indigenous people and the Dutch colonisers took place in 1659.
“This very place is where land was stolen for the first time in South Africa,” Mr Jenkins says. The dispossession of Khoi and San land set in motion centuries of land seizures across the rest of the country. The issue of land ownership, or the lack of it, remains a thorny issue.
… Mr Jenkins and members of the Khoi and San communities remain unmoved by the argument that the new development will bring much-needed jobs. “The reason why this development is so expensive is because it’s on a floodplain. If Amazon and the developer could take its money and build the same scale development off this flood plain, you’d find the size of the development three to four times bigger, which means you’d be able to employ exponentially more people.” [So Amazon is building on floodplains, and it costs more to build there?… so why is the government allowing it? Are there not better sites in Cape Town that will be cost-efficient to the parties involved? Or is there something missing in this information? … doesn’t this scream of corruption?]