River Club developers accused of defying court

Construction work on the River Club site recommenced at the end of June.

The ongoing saga of the River Club development continues after its opponents approached the Western Cape High Court last week seeking an urgent order for the developers to be found in contempt of court.

The Observatory Civic Association (OCA) and the Goringhaicona Khoi Khoin Indigenous Traditional Council (GKKITC) allege that Liesbeek Leisure Properties Trust (LLPT) is pushing ahead with construction on the site, in defiance of a court order.

The LLPT denies this.

In March, the Western Cape High Court slammed the brakes on the R4.6 billion mixed-used development with Amazon as the anchor tenant (“High Court halts River Club development,” Southern Suburbs Tatler, March 24).

Deputy Judge President Patricia Lynette Goliath ruled that an interim interdict was granted against the LLPT from undertaking any further construction at the site.

The OCA and GKKITC say the developers resumed building at the end of June and that this is in defiance of the interdict.

A joint unsigned statement by the OCA, GKKITC and Liesbeek Action Campaign (LAC) said they had taken their case, as a matter of urgency, to the high court on Tuesday July 12 to prevent any further construction on the site.

“The LLPT’s rationale for disregarding the interdict is not plausible. They have argued that because they have submitted an appeal to the Supreme Court on Tuesday May 31, that the appeal automatically suspends the interdict,” the statement said.

A statement from the LLPT says they do not feel they are breaking the law because, according to their legal advice, the high court’s ruling in March is effectively suspended pending the outcome of their application for leave to appeal in the Supreme Court of Appeal.

The LLPT has also described the work as “remedial and protective” and necessary to prevent the site falling into disrepair.

They have further justified the continued construction work as “environmental rehabilitation work” being done on the riverine corridors adjacent to the property, which according to them falls outside the scope of the order.

There were tense moments between the opposing groups outside the high court on Tuesday July 12 where the matter was postponed.

Zenzile Khoisan, a representative from the Western Cape First Nations Collective Trust (FNCT), which backs the development, said the OCA and GKKITC did not represent the broader interests of Khoisan descendants by opposing their right of return to their place of dispossession.

“We are not the developer but are part of a broader process in which we stand diametrically opposed to the Observatory elite represented by OCA and their fifth columns drawn from renegades in our ranks,” he said.

“Many first-nation descendants were condemned to hunger and poverty by the interdict because of OCA and the Observatory elite.”

According to the LLPT statement, the matter will now be heard on Wednesday July 27. A statement from the OCA and GKKITC said the LLPT would have to show why the court should not grant the orders stopping construction and finding the LLPT trustees in contempt of court.