Liesbeek Leisure Properties Trust (LLPT) is the developer engaged in constructing the African headquarters for Amazon in the Cape Town suburb of Observatory.
The development has been challenged on heritage, environmental and other grounds since the start – most prominently by the Goringhaicona Khoi Khoin Indigenous Traditional Council (GKKITC), led by its spokesperson and high commissioner, Tauriq Jenkins.
On 8 November 2022, the developer pulled off what seemed like a conclusive victory. A full bench of the Western Cape High Court accepted a claim by LLPT-affiliated lawyers that Jenkins was a fraud. Jenkins was smeared in the press and a subsequent application for leave to appeal left him with enormous legal costs.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Amazon HQ gets go-ahead after judges issue scathing ruling against activist ‘determined to stop development at all costs’
Now, four whistle-blowers have come forward to challenge the developer’s version, detailing how the GKKITC was hijacked by outsiders, with key support from the developer, all with the aim of quashing resistance to the building project.
The whistle-blowers’ affidavits confirm Jenkins’ legitimacy as leader of the GKKITC and lay out a conspiracy whose mastermind was none other than the LLPT’s Jody Aufrichtig and Mark Fyfe, with help from an attorney named Tim Dunn.
Former GKKITC member Ebrahim Abrahams’ affidavit recounts several meetings with Aufrichtig and Fyfe of LLPT.
Abrahams says he was first introduced to them by Tania Kleinhans-Cedras of the First Nations Collective, the group set to benefit from the Amazon project. Over lunch in Vangate Mall, Abrahams, Aufrichtig and Fyfe devised a plan to target Jenkins and take down the GKKITC. As detailed in numerous WhatsApp messages, the developers then told Abrahams to work with Dunn, the lawyer whose services were presumably paid for by the developer.
Abrahams had by then left the GKKITC and in March 2022 had founded a new group called the Krotoa of the Goringhaicona. After a meeting of the Krotoa group, attended by Dunn, and in which several new members were bused in, a resolution and affidavits were hurriedly shuttled around. These documents gave support to the Amazon/River Club development and revoked Jenkins’ leadership of the GKKITC.
What’s odd (some might say fraudulent) about the resolution and the affidavits is that they use the name of the GKKITC, and not the group the signatories were actually part of, the Krotoa of the Goringhaicona. These documents were drawn up by Dunn, who was present at the Krotoa group’s meeting. They were then presented to the Western Cape High Court under the guise of being GKKITC documents – and the judges bought them.
Let’s take a moment to lay out what these whistle-blowers are saying – after all, there are several elements in the story to keep track of.
Leaders of the Krotoa group pretend to be leaders of the GKKITC. They call for the removal of the real leader of the real GKKITC. Nobody from the real GKKITC is in the room. The lawyer draws up the documents as if they were GKKITC documents, knowing full well he’s dealing with the Krotoa group. Backed by the developers, they go to court to ask the judges to remove the real leader of the real GKKITC – and the judges oblige.
The resolution used in court against Tauriq Jenkins. It refers to the meeting of 29 May, but is written in the name of the GKKITC – not the ‘Krotoa of the Goringhaicona’. It withdraws objection to the Amazon/River Club development and revokes Jenkins’ authority.
Incredibly, Jenkins (a real leader of the real GKKITC), who was unable to afford legal representation at the time, was not given the opportunity by the court to counter these fraudulent claims.
According to an article in Mother City News, while Abrahams initially told the developers to target Jenkins, he was later fed up with the “lies” being told about the Goringhaicona and submitted his affidavit for Jenkins to use in any further legal action.
Who knows whether the whistle-blowers’ other claims can ever be proved – promises of R2-million and a house each; the settling of mortgages.
Abrahams says he was told by a First Nations Collective leader to “name your price” when engaging with the developers. Another Muslim whistle-blower said she objected to being served pork at a meeting paid for by the developer’s representative, Mark Fyfe, and was told by one of the other Krotoa leaders “to put the pork to one side and eat the rest of the food so as not to insult our benefactors”.
According to Mother City News, Dunn said there was nothing in his clients’ instructions that was questionable. He labelled Abrahams an “imposter attempting to piggyback off their tribe for his own gain”.
What’s certain is that the courts now need to urgently re-examine the story that was presented to them by Dunn and his associates.
With what sleight of hand was he able to transform the Krotoa group into the GKKITC, and produce documents removing the GKKITC’s legitimate leadership? How was a Krotoa attendance register entered into the court records as that of the GKKITC? How did the judges miss the discrepancy?
It would be convenient for the developer and its supporters from the Cape Town municipality if the entire matter was simply written off by the public as petty infighting among marginalised groups. Perhaps they’re counting on the public’s confusion and fatigue.
But serious objections to the development remain – on heritage grounds alone, even setting aside serious environmental and town planning considerations.
If the developer was so desperate as to deploy allegedly fraudulent means to remove indigenous voices who object to the building, that should tell us something about the strength of those objections.
That LLPT was able to blatantly ignore an earlier high court order to halt construction, without any consequences whatsoever, has never been examined. Neither has the city’s approval process – a judicial review might consider the fact that the province’s heritage body and the city’s environmental authority both objected to the development, but were ignored.
There should be accountability for those who allegedly bulldoze their way through processes meant to safeguard our constitutional rights and who will go to extreme lengths to silence voices that speak out against them.
It’s imperative that Jenkins’ legitimacy and the legitimacy of the GKKITC are restored so that he and the many supporters (including 75,500 petition signatories) can once more take up the fight. DM
Daily Maverick approached Amazon and Liesbeek Leisure Properties Trust, asking them to comment on some of the information in the above piece. Amazon did not respond. LLPT send the response below:
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 should instead be directed to Mr Tauriq Jenkins who was found unanimously by a full bench of the Western Cape High Court to have acted fraudulently for various reasons that were spelt out in the judgment, including when he claimed to represent the Goringhaicona in his legal action against the River Club development. Mr Jenkins’ subsequent application for leave to appeal against this ruling has been dismissed by the courts with costs against him, which is why he and his supporters are now turning to the media to continue driving their misinformation campaign. The developer’s number one priority remains delivering a world-class development that will offer numerous benefits to the citizens of the Western Cape.
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