Amazon base in Cape Town divides indigenous tribes

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A drum beats, the dance begins and a song is hoisted into the air. Cars roar ten meters away on a busy road, drivers ignoring the spiritual ceremony taking place in the heart of a bustling South African metropolis.

Francisco Mackenzie, chief of the Khoi village of Cochoqua, talks about old beliefs and struggles five centuries ago against foreign invaders. He gestures toward the famous Table Mountain skyline, then toward a nearby construction site.

“It is where we come together to honor our ancestors and the great creative spirit, and to rekindle the bonds of our nation.” This was the site of the first resistance battle. “However, money is always insulting to the environment, customs and culture,” he explained.

The money in dispute is the potential revenue from a 15 hectare (37 acre) plot of land in the Observatory area of ​​Cape Town which is being developed into a complex with houses, shops, a hotel, a center conference and business. Amazon, which aims to base its expanding business in Africa there, will be by far the largest tenant in the £200million project.

Cranes and bulldozers are currently inactive. Earlier this month, a Cape Town court upheld a March order that halted construction of the huge complex until further discussions with heritage groups representing certain indigenous tribes take place.

“That’s another vindication,” Tauriq Jenkins, an activist and board member from Goringhaicona Khoena, said at the start of the event. “It will be [help] refute the lies and misinformation spread against our claims. This is a triumph for Sn and Khoi, our heritage and ecology, and restorative justice.

The development story, however, is less straightforward than it appears, pitting divergent views on the future of South Africa against each other and causing bitter conflict within the communities of the Khoi and Sn peoples, the first occupants of the country.

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