Thriv­ing mar­ket now a slum

Tourists used to flock to Joburg’s Kwa Mai Mai mar­ket, but filth and crime have ren­dered it a ghost town

Saturday Star - - METRO - KGOPI MABOTJA

SIZWE Shezi re­mem­bers when he used to make a good profit sell­ing hand­crafted san­dals and cul­tural at­tire made from an­i­mal skin to scores of tourists vis­it­ing the Kwa Mai Mai mar­ket in the Berea.

For years, Shezi’s tal­ent has been the only way of putting food on the ta­ble for his fam­ily.

How­ever, for the past four years, poor main­te­nance and man­age­ment has seen tourist num­bers dwin­dle.

Shezi is no longer able to make a de­cent liv­ing. “How do we at­tract tourists to a filthy place like this? All the toi­lets in this fa­cil­ity are dys­func­tional. We used to have many tourists vis­it­ing this mar­ket. They have stopped com­ing al­to­gether.”

The mar­ket has also be­come a haven for crim­i­nals, he claims. “Se­cu­rity is poor. Peo­ple get robbed.”

At the en­trance to the mar­ket at the cor­ner of Al­bert and Berea streets, piles of rub­bish fes­ters while wa­ter streams down the streets. In­side, the pun­gent smell of sewage fills the air from blocked toi­lets. Some are with­out doors. “We work here. We have no choice but to use these toi­lets. It’s be­come a health haz­ard.”

Shezi and about 200 other traders have re­solved to stop pay­ing rent un­til the Jo­han­nes­burg Prop­erty Com­pany at­tends to their griev­ances. Kwa Mai Mai is a flag­ship project, man­aged by the JPC. In 2014, the city pumped in R3.2 mil­lion for the re­vamp of the mar­ket in bid to at­tract more tourists. Traders fear that, soon, the mar­ket will be com­pletely in ruin.

An­other trader, Noma Zuma, who sells hand­made san­dals, says his peers have tried raising con­cerns with the JPC, but these have been ig­nored. “We don’t know where to go anymore. No­body is lis­ten­ing to us.”

A stone’s throw away from the di­lap­i­dated fa­cil­ity lies Mabo­neng, an im­mac­u­late, thriv­ing cul­tural precinct, in stark con­trast to Kwa Mai Mai.

Mal­i­bongwe Sit­hole, the chair­per­son of the Kwa Mai Mai com­mit­tee, ques­tions why the JPC is fail­ing to em­u­late the suc­cess of Mabo­neng.

“This is the old­est cul­tural precinct in Joburg. Mabo­neng is new but look at its suc­cess. JPC is fail­ing all of us. This is sup­posed to be a booming tourist at­trac­tion. Now it’s a slum.”

Sit­hole showed the Satur­day Star a string of email ex­changes sent to the main­te­nance man­ager of the JPC, Lun­gelo Ra­mat­se­lela, and fa­cil­ity man­ager Sa­belo Mthembu re­quest­ing meet­ings, to no avail.

Sit­hole claims when they in­quired about the bud­get al­lo­cated for the main­te­nance of the mar­ket, of­fi­cials of­ten in­sulted and threat­ened them. “They don’t want to work with the com­mit­tee. We are un­der the im­pres­sion that they are us­ing the bud­get for some­thing else.

“Many peo­ple rely on this mar­ket to feed their fam­i­lies. The JPC is tak­ing that away from them.”

Re­quests to use some of the aban­doned con­tain­ers in the precinct as one-stop in­for­ma­tion cen­tres to help young peo­ple find op­por­tu­ni­ties have also been re­jected.

The Satur­day Star sent ques­tions to Ra­mat­se­lela and Mthembu but they did not re­spond this week.

Luyanda Mfeka, spokeper­son for mayor Her­man Mashaba, re­ferred queries to the JPC.


MAL­I­BONGWE Sit­hole, chair­per­son of the Kwa Mai Mai com­mit­tee, can­not un­der­stand why the mar­ket, once the flag­ship of the JoburgProp­erty Com­pany, has been al­lowed to sink into squalor. | African News Agency (ANA)

A WOMAN cook­ing out­side Kwa Mai Mai mar­ket.

POOR main­te­nance and man­age­ment has seen tourist num­bers dwin­dle at the mar­ket.

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