South Africa’s iconic Soweto Hotel situated on Freedom Square in Kliptown, Soweto, could close its doors after an onslaught by thieves, vandals, and the elements.
The hotel is meant to attract tourism to many parts of Soweto, including the historic and one of the oldest suburbs, Kliptown, and its surrounding informal settlements.
Soweto Hotel which was built at a cost of R23.4 million, has 48 rooms, including two suites, the OR Thambo and Chief Albert Luthuli suites, two executive boardrooms, the Winifred Mandela and Helen Joseph rooms; the Jazz Maniacs restaurant, and Rusty’s cocktail bar, which is named after activist Rusty Bernstein.
The four-star hotel opened its doors in November 2007, aiming to attract visitors and those who were in the country to watch the 2010 Fifa World Cup.
The establishment is built on an international historic site, where the Freedom Charter was signed in 1955.
But today, it faces many challenges, including vandalism of essential service equipment such as electrical cables.
Its underground parking lot is closed as it is flooded with water and littered with garbage.
The building is battling with a leaking roof and water flowing in, especially after heavy rain.
General Manager Dineo Setsetse said they are faced with constant blackouts that affect their lift.
“Electricity shortage is our biggest challenge. We have constant blackouts that are affecting everything including lights and a lift. Our lift is not working due to blackouts and our kitchen is a mess. We have a serious challenge of people who steal electrical cables meant to supply the hotel with power.
“Water flows into our kitchen through the roof. Workers working in the kitchen are not safe especially when it (is) flooded. Our back-up generator has been stripped and it is failing to supply us with alternative electricity when there are outages,” Setsetse said.
The hotel has stopped buying more groceries because it only operates with one refrigerator.
City of Johannesburg Mayoral Committee for Environment, Infrastructure and Services, Mpho Moerane, said he is appalled by conditions at the hotel.
“I am sad with what is happening at the hotel. Soweto has over 60% of the population of the City. The people of Soweto must stand up and fight vandalism of the hotel. It is also our responsibility to work with our communities to ensure that we bring the economy to townships especially in Soweto. We need to restore the hotel to where it was. It is our responsibility that tourists flock the hotel and the Freedom Square,” says Moerane.