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Thursday, 30 November 2023 21:49

Iconic Eyethu Shopping Centre evokes a vivid sense of nostalgia.

By Lehlohonolo Lehana.

The iconic Eyethu Theatre in Mofolo Central, Soweto has been revitalised and transformed into a contemporary community hub while preserving a local legacy.

The Theatre was originally built by Ephraim Tshabalala in 1969. It was one of the first black-owned movie theatres in the country.

Born in 1910 in Vrede in the Free State to farmworkers from Eswatini, Tshabalala worked as a forklift driver on a farm, before heading to Sophiatown where he was employed by a bus service. With his enterprising spirit, he quit his job in 1946 with £20 in savings and began a meat business, which was a roaring success. Tshabalala went on to build a flourishing retail empire that included garages, bottle stores, fish and chips outlets, supermarkets and dry-cleaning depots.

The Theatre was the only prime entertainment location in the 1970s and 80s for the Soweto community and could accommodate more than 1,000 people.

Community members reminisce about its glory days, with former employee Khehla Hlatshwayo saying, "Eyethu is the pride of Soweto… we have such fond memories of the place."

The cinema closed back in the 1990s, and the building fell into disrepair. Wanting to honor the late entrepreneur, the Tshabalala family partnered with Abland Property Developers to revive the once-bustling community hub.

Now, a 10,000 sqm shopping mall, the Eyethu Shopping Centre, opened on the 23rd of November 2023 as part of a revitalization effort to create a contemporary community hub in Mofolo. 

The south end wing of the shopping centre include a drive-through fast food outlet, Heritage Hall, and a rooftop restaurant. The Heritage Hall display the preserved artworks of the Eyethu Theatre.

The shopping complex also house the new rooftop Eyethu lifestyle centre, an incubation hub for small businesses, a hawkers' market, a taxi drop-off zone and parking spaces.

The taxi drop-off point, mini-market and pedestrian access are located near the entrance on Machaba Drive.

The north wing feature a strip food court with outdoor seating and semi-shaded pathways.

Eyethu Shopping Centre features a powerful lineup of anchor tenants comprising Shoprite, OBC Chicken, Ackermans, West Pack, Clicks and bank branches from FNB and Capitec Bank. In addition, it features Tekkie Town, Jam Clothing, Pep Home and Cash Crusaders. Shoppers can also enjoy food from Pedros Chicken, Debonairs Pizza and Fish and Chips while making use of the centre’s outdoor seating, as well as the convenience of the centre's Chicken Licken Fly Thru.

The development was funded by Nedbank, is managed by Broll Property Group and marketed by Kitchen Sink. During the 14-month development, solar power was installed for the centre in order to maintain operational during load shedding.