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Bruma flea market to make way for multi-million rand Chinese bazaar

Chinese investors pool their resources in a joint venture with a local developer.

JOHANNESBURG – The doors of the Bruma Lake flea market as we know it will close at the end of next month to make way for R400m upmarket Chinese shopping precinct to be known as the Bruma Oriental City. Current flea market traders will be relocated to the nearby Bruma boardwalk where the once bustling market had its origins around two decades ago.

MD of Keypunch Properties who purchased the land for the development, Jonathan Qin, says local Chinese investors have partnered with developer Thabo Mhlongo of Ishnana Investment to build the sprawling 23 000m² one-storey structure.

The market will have the capacity to accommodate around 50 stalls which will be let for R220 per m². Responding to derogatory remarks from flea market traders that “the Chinese are taking over”, Qin is adamant that all construction and other work will be carried out by South African entities. He pointed out that while international investors appeared to be reluctant to inject their money into the local economy the Chinese were willing to take the risk. Qin also maintains the project will create around 1 200 sustainable jobs upon completion.

Asked if he was confident the market, which is close to the massive Eastgate shopping centre, would attract customers, Qin explained that this particular concept was unique in that it served as a distribution point for traders who imported goods on a large scale, which is available to the public wishing to buy in bulk. This is vastly different to the shopping centre experience with large restaurants, chain stores and entertainment. Chinese malls, as they are known, have mushroomed across Johannesburg in recent years offering the consumer a rather chaotic but organised shopping experience. Qin says the new development will cater for the “mature market” and will be much more sophisticated.

Bruma Lake flea market traders trying to scupper the process

While the future looks promising for the Bruma precinct, Qin is having his hands full with a relatively small group of traders at the Bruma Lake flea market saying they will not vacate the premises when their leases run out at the end of October 2011. This is when developers plan to demolish what remains of the flea market. They maintain the market is an institution and that they were not consulted adequately about the sale of the property and the new development. They also claim the boardwalk about 200 metres away which has been offered as an alternative is deserted and does not attract any traffic.

Qin says the first thing he did when he bought the property was to close down a strip club on the premises rooting out prostitution, but drugs remain a massive problem. The traders say the authorities are using the drugs claim as an excuse to evict them, but this Moneyweb reporter was offered narcotics twice within the space of less than 30 minutes spent talking to vendors. A businessman who often visits the site has confirmed this. “They know me, I walk around with files under my arms, but each time, they offer me drugs,” he told Moneyweb. Democratic Alliance ward councillor, Alison van der Molen, says the new development will promote much needed growth and development in the Bruma precinct.

 Moneyweb also visited the boardwalk where the flea market traders are to be relocated to. Expecting rack and ruin, Moneyweb was surprised to find construction workers fervently working on renovating a portion of the small shopping centre. One of the managers explained that the rest of the centre was also going to be renovated, but that the priority was to prepare for the relocation of the Bruma vendors. The premises appear to be sound and traders will pay half of what they do at their current location. Does this make any sense as to why they won’t move? A sarcastic bystander remarked that they were opposing the relocation because they would no longer be able to ply their drug trade which in anyone’s terms is extremely lucrative. Around 150 former Bruma Lake traders have already signed up for their stalls in the new boardwalk shopping centre. 

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