Urban Development of Sacred South African Land Angers Protesters

Over 500 years ago, South Africa's indigenous Khoi and San population fought off a Portuguese attack in one of the first, and most successful, anti-colonial battles in Africa. Today, some descendants of the Khoi and San view U.S. retail giant Amazon's attempts to build an Africa headquarters on the same land in Cape Town in similar terms, writes Kim Harrisberg for the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The near U.S.$300 million development, housing Amazon's new African headquarters has seen over 56,000 people signing a petition to opposing its development. Liesbeek Leisure Properties Trust (LLTP), who said the project would create jobs, attract foreign investment and improve Cape Town's quality of life, is the company overseeing construction.

The area, at the confluence of two rivers, is the ancestral home to the earliest Khoi and San inhabitants in Southern Africa. It carries cosmological, spiritual and environmental significance to these indigenous groups. Following the victory against the Portuguese, the Khoi later battled against the Dutch in 1659. After the Dutch prevailed, it is where colonial administrator Jan Van Riebeek launched a campaign of land dispossession, an event that researchers and activist say laid the bedrock for what would become apartheid white minority rule years later.

LLTP have proposed honouring the Khoi and San history by constructing a heritage garden, a media centre, an ampitheatre and naming internal roads after indigenous leaders.

About 100 people marched through Cape Town city centre to deliver a petition with 50,000 signatures objecting to the proposed Amazon development at the Two Rivers Urban Park (file photo).

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