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
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.