50000+ Voices Matter: Stop the River Club Development!

14 JUN 2021 — 


Jeff Bezos may be blasting off into outer space but our petition rocketed up to over 50 000 signatures in the past few days.

I guess it must surely now get through to Jody Aufrichtig that a lot of people are opposed to his development. Quite a lot of people. I say that because he seems to have a problem with basic arithmetic, at least when it comes to counting how many people and organisations are opposed to the River Club development. He keeps perseverating about the opposition being ‘a small number of people.’

Today, our petition exceeded 50 000 signatures – that’s a lot of people, and the numbers continue to rise. Why? Because people are disgusted with how this development could have been approved completely contrary to environmental and climate policies and in disregard for heritage – to the extent that Heritage Western Cape said the approval was unlawful and Khoi leaders have insisted that their heritage is not for sale and will not be bought.

And on Wednesday we invite you to join a Walk of Resistance on June 16th starting a the BoKaap Museum at 71 Wale Street in Cape Town when an alliance of organisations will march to challenge the colonial legacy that is part of placing Amazon on the Liesbeek.  The walk will wend its way from the UNESCO-recognised Bokaap, past the statue of Jan Smuts and the Slave Lodge to end at the bottom of Adderley Street at the statue of Jan van Riebeek, first colonial governor of the Cape. The Dutch East India Company (known as the VOC) was the 17th Century equivalent of a Multinational Corporation, much like Amazon today. And like Amazon, the VOC placed its colonial stake through Khoi lands without any reference to the rights of indigenous people or the sanctity of the riverine environment.

We will walk on the 16th June to hand this petition to the Mayor in the hope that he hears your voice – actually 50 000+ voices. These are voices that the LLPT and Jody Aufrichtig have dismissed as a minority in their desperate efforts to get their development approved.

For example, back in August 2019, Jody stated that the delays in the development were because of actions “by only a few in the community.” That was at the time when the LLPT tried to join the OCA in order to find out how many members we had, but then didn’t bother to wait for an answer about our membership numbers before making up that claim. Contrary to Jody’s claims, the OCA has a lot of members and a lot of support in the community and is probably one of the more active and larger Civics in the Cape Metro.

We thought perhaps he had modified his perspective when he was quoted in the Mail and Guardian in September 2020 when he commented that “It is regrettable that people who claim to speak for the working class and poor are trying to block it.” At least he didn’t seem to make the mistake about our numbers being small, even if was grandstanding about speaking for the working class and poor.  Of course, the working class are quite capable of speaking for themselves as they have done in opposing this development in large numbers.

But sadly, Jody’s recovery with numbers seemed to go awry in 2021. Quoted in Groundup after the Municipal Planning Tribunal approved the rezoning in March 2021, Jody rehashed his previous claim verbatim but reinserted the fiction of the ‘small group’. He pontificated that “It is regrettable that a small group of people who claim to speak for the working class and poor, are trying to block a project that will contribute towards spatial justice and improving access to private land in the City.”

That’s odd because by then we had about 25 000 signatures on our petition at that stage. Not a small group. Not by a long shot. Nor by any stretch of the imagination.

The desperation by the LLPT to deny the huge groundswell of opposition to the development continued in May when it appeared in their rather churlish and, frankly, nasty response to the smear emails distributed last month. LLPT was asked what they thought about the smears against the OCA and myself and, rather than distancing themselves from the emails, they managed again to stick it to the OCA by claiming that a “vicious and vocal nimbyism by a handful oppose our plans.” Again, by some mysterious logic, opposition from more than 40 000 people on a petition and more than 60 NGOs, First Nation Groups and Civics was reduced to just ‘a handful.’

It seems the LLPT believes the fiction that the more often you repeat a lie, the more likely it is to be believed. Sadly, that is the logic of Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels. And it does not work. There’s a simple solution to this. LLPT can stop saying the opposition the development is small or a handful and they can simply apologise for misrepresenting the facts. And while they are about it, they would do well to distance themselves from any defamatory, vitriolic and illegal emails that attack opponents of the development – rather than calling us the one who are vicious.

But in one sense they are correct in using the term handful, though it’s not the sense the LLPT mean.  Because we do want to be a figurative handful for the LLPT as in the google definition of a handful being “a person or group that is very difficult to deal with or control.” We are certainly not going to be controlled by the LLPT or Amazon in giving in to their misplaced entitlement to place 150 000 square meters of concrete on an environmentally sensitive floodplain and a spiritually significant heritage site. And if exercising our democratic rights gives them uphill, they should have thought of it before embarking on this destructive path.

In contrast, what is small is what the group of Khoi supporting the development are seen to be.  Chief Dannie Bolton of the Cochoqua traditional authority stated on Feb 7th 2020 “This whole development has not got our approval. It benefits a small group who claim they are traditional leaders.” In fact, what Chief Marthinus Martinus Fredericks, paramount chief of the !Aman (Nama) Traditional Council, made clear was that “We will mobilise every single Khoi and San person in the country to stop that development.”

So, hopefully, Jody’s arithmetical skills are restored to him when he faces a long court battle, and he realises it is just not worth it. We are not small in numbers and we are not small in ideas. But, unlike Jody, we don’t have huge amounts of money to bankroll an expensive court case. So, please support us at our fundraising site  so that we can achieve justice in this matter. Please join us on our Walk of Resistance on the 16th against the recolonisation of the Liesbeek.

Make the Liesbeek Matter!