The Eyethu Theatre in Mofolo, Soweto, in the Gauteng province, was once a bustling community landmark that began crumbling after shutting its doors over twenty years ago – but has now been restored to honour its pioneer.

The theatre was the pride and joy of late entrepreneur Ephraim Batana Tshabalala, opened back in 1969. It was home to one of the first black-owned cinemas in the country.

“Eyethu was more than just a cinema; it hosted various community events and holds fond memories for many Sowetans.” wrote real estate info hub Property Wheel. Community members reminisce about its glory days, with former employee Khehla Hlatshwayo telling the Sowetan, “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 in October 2023 as part of a revitalization effort to create a contemporary community hub in Mofolo. The old cinema building has been renovated and transformed into a Heritage Hall (which serves as the shopping centre).

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.

Tenants include some of South Africa’s most recognised brands:

  • Shoprite
  • Ackermans
  • West Pack
  • Clicks
  • FNB
  • Capitec Bank
  • Tekkie Town
  • Jam Clothing
  • Pep Home
  • Debonairs Pizza
  • Chicken Licken

The community will continue to play an integral role in the operations of the centre. They will run kiosks, small retail outlets and be employed by larger retailers.

The final product tried to showcase the rich history of the building, by preserving many of the original artworks of the theatre and maintain the original theatre structure.