The City of Cape Town in South Africa has approved plans for a new business and residential complex. What is interesting about the complex is that it will house e-commerce giant, Amazon’s headquarters for Africa.

However, these plans could be derailed as the Khoikhoi and San communities have contended that the complex is to be built on land that is sacred for their heritage. The Khoi and San people are specifically arguing  that the land is of spiritual significance as it was a battlefield on which the Khoikhoi defended the territory from Portuguese colonizers in 1510.

As such, as the Khoikhoi and San communities argue, the land is an important part of their heritage.

The Battle of Salt River

Based on several accounts of history about relations between the Khoikhoi and the Portuguese, their initial relations and trades were friendly and cordial. The main trade was that the Portuguese would give the Khoikhoi iron in exchange for cattle.

However, this apparently changed and relations between the Khoikhoi and Portuguese soured.

It is reported that some Portuguese sailors one day decided to visit a Khoikhoi village in the modern area and vicinity of Cape Town with the aim of stealing cattle. Unfortunately they were not successful as the Khoikhoi managed to defend against this and chase them back to their ships. However, it didn't end there.

"Upon reaching the safety of their ships the sailors begged Almeida to take revenge upon the villagers who had defended their cattle. Even though Almeida admitted that his men were likely to blame for what had occurred he led a party of 150 men armed with swords, lances and crossbows to enact an unwarranted revenge. When they reached the village the raiders seized a number of children and cattle. Approximately 170 Khoikhoi warriors fought back with stones and assegais. Using their cattle as shields they routed the raiders killing 64 of them including Almeida and 11 of his captains. This devastating defeat put pause to Portugal’s run of victories in Africa and Asia," reports South African History Online.

📷 Francisco d’Almeida at the Cape of Good Hope, 1510. From Pieter van der Aa’s Naauwkeurige verzameling der gedenkwaardigste zee- en landreysen naar Oost- en West-Indië, Leiden, 1707.

Amazon's Africa headquarters

The Battle of Salt River is a significant part of Khoikhoi and San history but also South African history. As such, it is understandable to see why the two communities would oppose the building of Amazon's Africa headquarters on this piece of land.

Amazon’s planned offices will apparently be something to behold. They will have a total floor space of 70,000 square meters. Added to this, some have argued that the development will provide some much needed jobs.

But the Khoikhoi and San communities are not in agreement.

"Going onto someone's sacred terrain and building something on top of it, saying 'we're going to offer employment in doing so' is a morose and sick form of arguing the notion of job development," said Tauriq Jenkins, high commissioner for the Goringhaicona council.

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