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Amazon’s new Africa HQ gets green light

Campaigners on Wednesday slammed a South African court ruling to allow construction to go ahead on Amazon’s new African headquarters. The move dealt a blow to indigenous groups who say the development will desecrate ancestral land.

Developers now have the go-ahead to re-start work on a multi-million-dollar project that is to host the US tech giant’s offices –- which had been halted by a previous court decision.

The High Court in Cape Town concluded Tuesday that a representative for several groups opposing the construction had “misrepresented the views of some indigenous leaders without consulting with them”.

Campaigners opposing the development said they were “deeply disappointed” at the ruling.

“We do not believe the facts put before the court enabled it to make a fair judgement,” a collective of campaign groups representing indigenous people said in a statement.

Fighting property developers

Amazon was not directly named in the case that pitted indigenous groups against property developers.

Construction of a nine-storey business and residential complex on a greenfield site that will be anchored by Amazon was first approved by city authorities last year.

But work on the four-billion-rand ($225m) complex was suspended in March this year after indigenous people took legal action.

Some of the country’s first inhabitants, the Khoisan, said the development lies on a battlefield where their ancestors fought Portuguese colonisers in 1510.

Once hunter-gatherers known under the now-discarded label of Bushmen, the Khoisan suffered deeply during the colonial era and under apartheid.

Indigenous communities in South Africa still face vast social inequalities and lack economic activities, with their history often overlooked.

We do not believe the facts put before the court enabled it to make a fair judgement.”

Located on what was previously a golf course, Amazon’s new HQ will have a total floor space of 70,000 square metres (7.5 million feet) — equivalent to almost 10 football pitches.

The project holds the promise of thousands of jobs in a country where unemployment is cripplingly high.

Several Khoisan groups had thrown their support behind the project after the developers agreed to build a heritage, cultural and media centre that will be operated by indigenous groups.

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