Simnikiwe Hlatshaneni
Premium Journalist
4 minute read
2 Jun 2021
7:34 pm

Joburg’s beleaguered JPC probed for alleged human rights violations

Simnikiwe Hlatshaneni

For years, the traders committee has been complaining about the suffering of traders under the alleged poor management of the JPC

Kwa Mai Mai Nduna Nkaberong Ndwandwa at his shop in Kwa Mai Mai Market in Johannesburg, 7 July 2020. Picture: Nigel Sibanda

The South  African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) is investigating the Johannesburg Property Company (JPC) for alleged human rights violations against traders at Kwa Mai-Mai in Jeppestown.

On Wednesday morning, the SAHRC’s Gauteng office visited the historic informal marketplace as part of its intervention into a dispute between KwaMai-Mai traders and the JPC.

For years, the traders committee has been complaining about the suffering of traders under the alleged poor management of the company. The traders’ leadership committee has complained about the lack of decision making power it’s been given in the management of the property and have alleged that traders have suffered dearly in their personal lives as a result.

According to the SAHRC spokesperson Buang Jones, the commission received the traders’ complaint last week and immediately set up a meeting.

“The commission received a complaint from the traders and we deemed it appropriate to engage with complainants as part of our assessment of the matter,”  says Jones.

“The matter is really around the alleged unjust treatment by JPC. The allegations will be substantiated in a written submission so we looked at this matter from a human rights point of view and we are going to review the information we will receive from them and then decide whether to embark on a full-blown investigation or take up better and secure appropriate redress in a court of law, or facilitate an amicable solution between the traders and the JPC.”

JPC Acting CEO Ruby Matang said the company has yet to be notified of the complaint by Kwa Mai-Mai traders. and at this stage is not in a position to comment. Asked if the company isn’t worried about yet another condemnation of its governance issues, Matang says it is too soon to tell.

“We are not worried. As indicated we are not aware of the details of the probe. It is premature to surmise that the probe relates to governance issues at JPC.”

SAHRC officials were taken on a walk-about of the facilities, pointing out where broken promises became human rights violations in the living and working conditions of Kwa-Mai-Mai traders. JPC is also expected to respond to the complaint and give its side of the story to the commission.

Also Read: WATCH: Kwa Mai Mai traders question JPC’s claims of market renovations

Jones says the commission is keen to facilitate an amicable resolution to the dispute without having to involve the courts.

“We will engage with JPC. They are an important party in the resolution of this matter so we will certainly be engaging with JPC but this is after we have received further particulars from the complainant and after we have done a proper and meticulous assessment so that we know how best to approach this matter.”

JPC under fire

This week, the DA Johannesburg Caucus and DA provincial leadership laid charges of corruption against JPC CEO, Helen Botes, and her CFO Imraam Bhamjee.

Botes and Bhamjee have been accused of orchestrating the appointment of contractors for ‘deep cleaning and sanitisation’ services at properties owned by the City. The contracts worth just under R20 million were found to be irregular by forensic investigators last year.

Also Read: JPC board wants ‘corrupt’ CEO back despite SIU corruption report

Despite another investigation by the Special Investigating Unit fingering the pair, both executives’ suspensions were lifted and they are both back at work along with two co-accused. Contracts were awarded to KM Mashigo Trading CC, Omphile Turnkey and Solutions (Pty) Ltd, Triple SL Tech CC and Mizana Trading.

Both the internal forensic investigation by Kunene Ramphala and the SIU investigation found evidence of corruption by officials in awarding these contracts through among other things  over-inflating payments by up to 864% above market prices.

“It is not surprising that someone like Makhubo would reinstate Botes and Bhamjee despite these damning findings. He appointed one of his own officials, Ruby Mathang, as acting CEO of JPC. Mathang had originally appointed Botes, then his PA, as CEO, despite her lack of qualifications or experience,” said DA deputy Caucus leader Micheal Sun.