For Immediate Release
22 March 2022
Western Cape High Court grants interdict in River Club case
Cape Town — Western Cape High Court Deputy Judge President Patricia Goliath granted an interdict on Friday, 18 March, temporarily halting the development underway at the River Club in Observatory in the Observatory Civic Association and Others v Liesbeek Leisure Properties Trust matter, commonly referred as the River Club Case.
The applicants – the Observatory Civic Association and the Goringhaicona Khoi Khoin Indigenous Traditional Council – were granted an interim interdict which will remain in place pending meaningful consultation with relevant indigenous groups and a court review of the development permit. The applicants argued that the permit was unduly granted. In its reasoning, the court recognised that “first nation people hold a deep sacred lineage, oral history, past history, narratives, indigenous knowledge systems and collective memory.” For these reasons, the rights to culture and heritage held by such groups fall under “threat in the absence of proper consultation”.
The Forest Peoples Programme (FPP), represented by the Legal Resources Centre, made submissions to the Court as amicus curiae. FPP is an international NGO that specialises in advancing the rights of forest and other indigenous peoples. FPP made submissions on the international framework applicable to the rights of indigenous peoples and protection of their cultural and heritage rights. This framework is of particular importance given the historical and cultural significance of the site and providing guidelines as to how relevant indigenous groups should be consulted meaningfully.
FPP submitted that the court must consider international law when interpreting the scope the protection of the right to culture in the Constitution. In doing so, the court must consider the relevant provisions of binding international human rights law such as the International Civil and Political Rights Covenant (ICCPR), the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).
The LRC welcomes the court’s adoption of international law principles in protecting the cultural rights of indigenous peoples where these are impacted by development projects.
Issued by the Legal Resources Centre