South African Court Halts Construction of Amazon HQ on Sacred Land

A South African court has halted construction of Amazon’s new Africa headquarters after some descendants of the country’s earliest inhabitants said the land it would be built on was sacred.

In a ruling issued on Friday, Judge Patricia Goliath said that Liesbeek Leisure Properties Trust (LLPT), owner of the 37-acre site in Cape Town, must stop construction immediately pending “proper and meaningful consultation” with the Khoi and San indigenous populations.

“This matter ultimately concerns the rights of indigenous peoples,” Goliath said in the ruling. 

The Western Cape division of the High Court prohibited the project developer from continuing with works at the Cape Town site until there had been meaningful engagement and consultation with the affected indigenous peoples.

The Khoi and the San were the earliest inhabitants of South Africa. The San peoples roamed as hunter-gatherers for tens of thousands of years, and the Khoi peoples joined them as pastoralists more than 2,000 years ago.

The ruling said that the residential and commercial development is being constructed at the confluence of two rivers, near grazing lands that hosted ceremonies, and where indigenous people fought European invaders.

Amazon declined to comment on Monday.

However, not all who identify with the Khoi and San oppose the project, complicating the way forward in a country where indigenous people have endured decades of colonial rule and apartheid policy.

Goliath said that her ruling should not be taken as a criticism of the development, but that the main issue was that there needed to be proper consultation before it could proceed.

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