Decades ago, the Eyethu Theatre in Mofolo, Soweto, stood tall as a vibrant communal symbol. Established in 1969 by the visionary entrepreneur Ephraim Batana Tshabalala, this iconic landmark was not merely a cinema; it pulsated with life, hosting diverse community events, etching enduring memories in the hearts of Sowetans. With nostalgia, Khehla Hlatshwayo, a former employee, fondly recalls, “Eyethu is the pride of Soweto… we have such fond memories of the place.”
However, the curtains fell on this cultural haven in the 1990s, casting its edifice into neglect and decay. Yet, the spirit of Tshabalala lingered, compelling his family to collaborate with Abland Property Developers. This partnership breathed life into the neglected structure, embarking on a journey to honor the entrepreneur’s legacy.
A phoenix rose from the ashes of neglect—October 2023 marked the inauguration of the Eyethu Shopping Centre, a sprawling 10,000 sqm complex fashioned from the revamped cinema building. This metamorphosis aimed at rejuvenating Mofolo into a contemporary community hub, steeped in history and modernity.
Nedbank’s financial support and Broll Property Group’s management spearheaded the development, while Kitchen Sink took charge of marketing. Remarkably, amidst South Africa’s power challenges, the centre stands resilient, fortified by solar power installed during its 14-month construction, ensuring operations persist through load shedding.
Within its walls now dwell prestigious brands like Shoprite, Ackermans, West Pack, Clicks, FNB, Capitec Bank, Tekkie Town, Jam Clothing, Pep Home, Debonairs Pizza, and Chicken Licken. However, the heartbeat of Eyethu Shopping Centre lies in its commitment to the community. Residents actively participate, managing kiosks, boutique shops, and securing jobs within the larger retail spaces.
Preserving history was paramount in this transformation. The Heritage Hall, reimagined from the original cinema structure, pays homage to the bygone era, adorned with meticulously conserved artworks from the theatre’s glory days. This final product symbolizes not just a shopping center but a living testament to cultural heritage, seamlessly merging the past with the present.
As South Africa’s landscape evolves, the Eyethu Shopping Centre stands tall, embracing its past while forging a modern future. It stands as a testament to resilience, embodying the essence of community spirit and honoring the legacy of its visionary founder.