Legal battle over prized Amazon River Club site not yet over

The Observatory Civic Association (OCA) has been trying to stop construction at the River Club site pending a legal battle over development approvals. Picture: Ian Landsberg/Independent Newspapers

The Observatory Civic Association (OCA) has been trying to stop construction at the River Club site pending a legal battle over development approvals. Picture: Ian Landsberg/Independent Newspapers

Published Jan 19, 2024


The legal battle over the controversial River Club development site is not over yet.

Lawyers acting for High Commissioner Tauriq Jenkins, on behalf of the Goringhaicona Khoi Khoin Indigenous Traditional Council (GKKITC), have filed an application for rescission of the full bench judgment which challenged his right to speak on behalf of the group and institute a case against the development.

In early 2022, Deputy Judge President Patricia Goliath ordered the halting of construction on the River Club site, finding that the fact that the development had economic benefits could not override the fundamental rights of the First Nations People -which were under threat if the development was allowed to proceed.

This after the Observatory Civic Association (OCA) and the GKKITC sought to stop the development, which was earmarked for Amazon, citing irreparable harm and a lack of meaningful consultation.

Around July 2022, a group launched court proceedings challenging the legitimacy of Jenkins to institute the case against the developers, the Liesbeek Leisure Properties Trust (LLPT).

This resulted in a November 2022 ruling, where the Western Cape High Court set aside Judge Goliath’s earlier decision, revoking Jenkins’ authority to represent the GKKITC.

Represented by attorney Jonathan Raphunga, as well as advocates Ben Winks, Tongayi Masvikwa and Tembeka Ngcukaitobi SC, he is now challenging that ruling, citing evidence including sworn affidavits of alleged fraud committed by developer Jody Aufrichtig from LLPT, an associate and attorney Tim Dunn. The developers and Dunn have dismissed these allegations.

Jenkins alleges that they conspired to “neutralise” opposition to the multi-billion rand development earmarked for Amazon.

In a statement, the Save Our Sacred Lands campaign said: “The affidavits detail meetings in which Aufrichtig, (associate) and Dunn planned to destroy the reputation of Tauriq Jenkins and then oust him as the GKKITC spokesperson and High Commissioner, allowing a group of outsiders to then hijack the organisation. Jenkins has been among the most prominent indigenous voices objecting to the Amazon development, which is being built on land with unique historical and spiritual significance.

“The whistle-blowers also provide clear evidence of falsified meeting registers and resolutions. With these fake documents, the developer – with the support of an attorney named Tim Dunn – was able to convince the courts that Tauriq Jenkins was not the legitimate leader of the GKKITC, thereby eliminating opposition to the Amazon development.”

Approached for comment, the LLPT denied the allegations and confirmed it was opposing the application.

“We believe that not only is it a vexatious application but also one which has no merit and is in fact an abuse of the process for numerous reasons.

“Any bona fide issues relating to the governance of the GKKITC can of course be dealt with internally which raises the question why Mr Jenkins would seek to do so through litigation. The LLPT has no knowledge of any claims made by Jenkins and his associates.

“The developer has always acted professionally and ethically and with respect for all First Nations individual and groups’ own agency. Any suggestion of impropriety is categorically denied and questions should instead be directed to Mr Jenkins who was found unanimously by a full bench of the Western Cape High Court to have acted fraudulently for various reasons ... including when he claimed to represent the Goringhaicona and in particular the GKKITC in his legal action against the River Club development,” the LLPT said.

Dunn added that the matter was being opposed and Jenkins allegations were "false, defamatory and his application is vexatious and bad in law".

Cape Times