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Earlier in the year, it was reported that Amazon would be setting up shop in the Mother City. Serving as their African headquarters, the Seattle-based multinational would be based at a proposed development at the River Club, Observatory. The redevelopment of the land will create much-needed work in Cape Town, with over 5,000 direct jobs created. However, a number of environmental and heritage groups have opposed the idea. Cape Town mayor Dan Plato told BizNews founder Alec Hogg that Amazon’s announcement to establish their African headquarters in Cape Town is something no one can want to say no to. Plato also touches on objections to the project and semigration from other parts of the country to Cape Town. – Jarryd Neves
Cape Town mayor Dan Plato on Geordin Gwyn Hill-Lewis:
It’s a case of grooming the youngsters for higher office. The 60-year olds won’t be there within the next five to 10 years and we need to groom the youngsters of how best to govern, to learn from us. That is why Geordin is walking next to me, many meetings and engagements – and also for me to make sure there’s a proper handover of what he must and must not do. He’s brand new in government; he’s never governed before. He was never part of a governing structure, always in opposition in national parliament. But to govern a provincial like we are and the city of Cape Town is definitely a different piece of cake. We cannot allow any mistakes and that is why we make use of a grooming period, to make sure he knows exactly what’s at stake when he enters the corridors of the city of Cape Town.
On the Amazon development:
The Liesbeek Park Trust has a huge say within what happens. At the moment, Amazon is – as far as I understand it – is only an anchor tenant. You could have Pick n Pay, Woolworths or any other big business as an anchor tenant. The focus must not entirely be on Amazon. But at the end of the day, I’m very happy and pleased with Amazon, because it’s one of America’s three biggest companies currently. Everybody would love to have Amazon right in their backyard.
On whether Cape Town had to offer Amazon incentives to be chosen as the city for their African headquarters:
Definitely not. The fact of the matter is, looking at what Amazon already brings to Cape Town – and what they are offering in Cape Town – looking at the current economical situation of SA at large, just the fact that s company of the magnitude of Amazon [setting up] base in Cape Town says a lot. It is actually assisting our economy to lift its head. That is what Cape Town needs right now – and that is why I’m so chuffed about the Amazon announcement, their African head office right in our backyard. Also, with the opportunities Amazon offers Cape Town, the Western Cape and South Africa – no one can want to say no to that.
On objections against the development:
The objections are still there. We had a marathon debate on Carte Blanche over the weekend. There’s still uncomfortability from certain quarters – but I think we can find common ground. I think during the whole site development plan, we look at all the issues raised by those criticising the development – the heritage issues, the fauna and flora issues and that sort of thing. I don’t think it is problematic. It doesn’t need to be problematic. People also need to remember we cannot want to be so keen on certain matters and overlook others.
Some of the pressing issues facing South Africa and Cape Town today is hunger and poverty. It’s bringing in other nations, like the First Nations groups into the economy to protect their needs as well. The word is already out there and that is a negative narrative in the minds of many people. Only certain groupings using Twin River Park land – to play golf and jog – exclude other people in Cape Town. The Liesbeek River Trust proposal includes everyone – it includes the haves and have-nots of Cape Town. It’s a beautiful, integrated kind of development making sure no one is excluded.
It is to bring all racial groups together, saying to each and every one [that] there’s a place in the sun in Cape Town for all of you. It is behind that reason why my office and I – and the city of Cape Town at large – are supporting this development. The First Nation grouping’s was very worried about what happened many moons ago, since Jan van Riebeeck landed in Cape Town. So many First Nations soldiers were killed on that site – on that piece of land. All they were asking is preserve our heritage and our past. And for Amazon, part of it – with the Twin River Park Trust – [was] to say we can do that.
Businesses that have a far-sighted eye for the needs of the people on the ground to prevent an unnecessary animosity. What they also want to bring to those people is to say, “we can preserve your past in a meaningful way. Allow us to do business as well.” The indigenous people of Cape Town said, “it sounds like a very good proposal. Let’s accept.” Others? Well, they don’t accept that. But at the end of the day, what will be the other consequences down the line if we had to make a different kind of a decision? More animosity, more unnecessary marches for their rights and that sort of thing? Amazon have killed a number of cats for us with this development, with their integrated approach. Other businesses needs to take a leaf out of this and say that is the way of bringing the whole of Cape Town together – without a fight. Currently in Cape Town, I can safely say, we achieved just that.
On semigration to Cape Town:
We don’t find it from the ‘haves’ alone. [Also] flocking to Cape Town are the ‘have nots’ – they can see who is governing the best and where there’s stability in governance at large. Looking at what’s happening in the rest of the country, people made up their mind. Even the ordinary, disadvantaged and poverty stricken person wants stability. They want safety for their children and their families. They want good education. They want a working health system and all that a government can provide to people.
At the end of the day, that is what Cape Town is offering the haves and the have-nots. That is, again, a beautiful way of bringing them together – and to say Cape Town is a safe haven for whoever wants to come work and operate. You must realise one thing, during the Phoenix/Gauteng mayhem, we managed to say to our people, “we cannot want to allow that drama to happen in Cape Town.” The Cape Town community – through our neighbourhood watches and our walking busses protected the shopping centres for days in a row.
At the end of the day, we succeeded in making sure that Cape Town stays [unscathed] with regard to all the drama. That also sent out a clear signal that that is how Cape Town wants to do business. We have the odd marches and tire burning here and there. But at the end of the day, nothing we can’t control and contain. We have done that very nicely. I am very sure that that many people in the rest of the country see Cape Town as as the place to go and put up camp.
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