Traders at Johannesburg's historic Kwa Mai Mai market have a bone to pick with the embattled Johannesburg Property Company (JPC) over broken promises, filth and money. After numerous attempts to vent their concerns to senior management including JPC CEO Helen Botes, they say the property has been on a constant downward spiral due to lack of maintenance, security risks, and broken-down communications between the market traders' committee and JPC property managers. Despite a supposed cash injection of over R10 million which was meant to see refurbishments at the place in 2017, traders have yet to see half that money spent...
Traders at Johannesburg's historic Kwa Mai Mai market have a bone to pick with the embattled Johannesburg Property Company (JPC) over broken promises, filth and money.

After numerous attempts to vent their concerns to senior management including JPC CEO Helen Botes, they say the property has been on a constant downward spiral due to lack of maintenance, security risks, and broken-down communications between the market traders' committee and JPC property managers.

Despite a supposed cash injection of over R10 million which was meant to see refurbishments at the place in 2017, traders have yet to see half that money spent on the property as structures continue to deteriorate, according to Malibongwe Sithole, Chairperson of Kwa Mai Mai Market.

"We were elected on the 27th of June 2018, but to date the JPC officials are refusing to work with the legit, democratically elected committee. There are a number of things that need JPC's attention. We have written a number of letters to JPC CEO, Miss Helen Botes, but to our surprise and shock we have never received any response from her," he says.

Kwa Mai Mai traders question JPC's claims of market renovations


Malibongwe Sitole Chair of the trader committee speaks to the Citizen at the Kwa Mai Mai market, 8 September 2020. Basic services have been neglected since lockdown started in March 2020, resulting in a trash build up and unclean open areas. Picture: Tracy Lee Stark

"We have met with the MMC's office on the 18th of January 2019 and in that meeting the MEC was represented by Andrew Stewart at the time, but today they failed to come and resolve the issues we are facing at (the market). To our surprise and shock there are plenty of (funds) that are supposed to be injected into Mai Mai. To date no one is coming."

The smell of urine hangs heavy in the air all around the main entrance in the hot spring sun as one enters the unmanned security gate on Tuesday morning.

At least R13 million was supposedly pumped into the establishment since 2014, but it is difficult too see exactly where the money was spent.

Flies swarm around the many out-of-order toilets, so customers and traders have to make other arrangements for ablution facilities. A massive pile of rubbish, that children are playing in, greets customers on their way to the stalls. It lies unattended next to a brand new waste bin that was delivered less than 24 hours ago.

An elder of the market, Zodwa Pikoli, affectionately known as MaDlamini, says crime and neglect have dimmed the prospects of a future for many traders in the market.

"I had high hopes for this place, but now things are only getting worse. We are not happy with JPC because they don't seem to know what they are doing. They don't care.

Kwa Mai Mai traders question JPC's claims of market renovations


Basic services at the Kwa mai mai market have been neglected since lockdown started in March 2020, Picture: Tracy Lee Stark

"You can't take a place as old as this and give to people who don't even know what they are doing. They need to ask us. We have elected a committee to represent us. I really wish that things would improve. This is the place of our fathers. I was born into my fathers business here."

Pikoli's father was part of the original consignment of workers hired to man the stables and tend to horses at Kwa Mai Mai in the late 1800s, when it served as an equestrian centre. She inherited the family business and her siblings had other stalls in the market before they died.

"Now people come here from other places to cause trouble here. The gate is not secured like it used to be, anyone just walks in here now. On the weekends, men in strange cars park near the entrance and start drinking and causing a commotion. Our customers don't get enough parking anymore, because these rascals just come here."

Kwa Mai Mai traders question JPC's claims of market renovations


Children play in dirty water at the Kwa-Mai-Mai market. Picture: Tracy Lee Stark

JPC has been embroiled in corruption scandals over the past few weeks. Botes and her chief financial officer, Imraan Bhamjee, are being probed for wasteful expenditure after spending R19 million on cleaning and sanitising various municipally-owned properties in Johannesburg, in the days following the Covid-19 lockdown commencement in March. However, companies were allegedly paid inflated prices for the job.

Botes' office had not yet replied to questions sent by The Citizen on the concerns raised by Kwa Mai Mai traders.

Simnikiweh@citizen.co.za

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