1 November 2007More than 50 years after the Freedom Charter was signed, Soweto’s Kliptown is once again the focus of much attention. Setting the trend for other townships in South Africa, it is about to enter a new era in its history with the opening of its first-ever hotel.Holiday Inn Soweto opened its doors to the public on 1 November. Situated at Walter Sisulu Square of Dedication, a tourist draw card, in Soweto’s oldest suburb, the four-star hotel offers accommodation at an international standard to the more than 200 000 tourists who visit the township every year.This was not merely a 2010-focused initiative, confirmed George Phefo, the hotel’s general manager. In time, the group hopes to do more for the neighbourhood. “We are looking beyond 2010. We believe there are opportunities for Soweto.”Jazz and politicsIn addition to its location on a world-famous national heritage site, the hotel overlooks the informal market in Union Street and Jada’s place, the house in which Nelson Mandela was hiding when the Freedom Charter was drawn up on 26 June 1955. It plans to give tourists the opportunity to explore the Kliptown of the 1950s.“We will deliver on the Holiday Inn promise but also bring the political and historical stories into focus,” confirmed Lindiwe Sangweni-Siddo, the chief executive of the Zatic Group, or the Zuka Afrika Tourism and Investment Corporation, at the hotel’s inauguration. Zatic holds the franchise and a 30-year contract with the Intercontinental Hotel Group to manage the hotel.The decor is a mix of Kliptown history and African township – gogo blankets, Alf Khumalo photographs, vintage radiograms. With an eclectic blend of the modern and the old, private rooms and public areas offer style and comfort, without the visitor feeling removed from the real Soweto on the doorstep.Interior designer Fanie Makhanya said the brief was to take the uniqueness of Kliptown and modernise the application.Half a century ago, on 26 June 1955, more than 3 000 representatives of resistance organisations and ordinary people made their way through police cordons to gather on a dusty square in Kliptown, 40 kilometres south of Johannesburg.It was the Congress of the People, held to draw up the Freedom Charter, an alternative vision to the repressive policies of the apartheid state. At the time, Nelson Mandela was in hiding to avoid the police. On the second day, authorities broke up the illegal gathering, but by then the charter had already been adopted as a guiding document. It remains the cornerstone of ANC policy to this day and is seen by many as the foundation of South Africa’s 1996 Constitution.Local prospectsAnd the Zatic Group is determined to have as many locals benefit from the project as possible. At least 80 percent of the workforce comes from small, medium and micro enterprises based in Soweto.There will be about 40 permanent employees at the hotel, and numerous opportunities will be created through procurement of services from businesses based in Soweto, including sourcing fresh produce from traders.“We want to procure as much as possible from our immediate surroundings,” said Steven Bagg, the director of the Zatic Group.In another move to improve conditions on the ground, the group has spoken to Deputy President Phumzile Mlambu-Ngcuka about funding for the hospitality clinics it wants to offer to local matriculants.“Above all, our job will be to train young people from this community who want to enter the hospitality sector,” Sangweni-Siddo confirmed.The local bed-and-breakfast industry was also bound to benefit, Bagg pointed out. Foreigners would take comfort from the globally recognised brand, leading to an increase in the number of visitors to the area. “This is a step up for Soweto.”Initial discussions with local tour operators and African curio artists have also taken place.Priceless accommodationHoliday Inn Soweto is owned by Freedom Square Hotel, a consortium of leading business and leisure shareholders. Built at a cost of R23,4-million, it forms part of the Walter Sisulu Square mixed-use precinct initiated by the Johannesburg Property Company (JPC).The Kliptown project comprises the hotel, the recently opened Kliptown Museum, retail, restaurant and office space as well as an informal trading area. The JPC has signed a 10-year lease with empowerment group Zatic Hotels and Resorts to operate the hotel. Capello, the restaurant chain, plans to open a restaurant on the square soon.The Holiday Inn Soweto has 48 rooms, including two suites, the Oliver R 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 Rusty Bernstein, who assisted with the drafting of the Freedom Charter.Families are catered for in the 10 inter-leading rooms. The passages are called The Long Walk to Freedom – it is indeed a very long passage – and Unsung Heroes.The hotel is easily accessible from the Golden Highway and, with additional policing and security, the safety of guests and visitors is ensured. The luxury rooms cost R1 500 per person for one night, bed and breakfast. Deluxe suites cost R2 700 per night.For reservations, contact Holiday Inn Soweto on 0800 999 136.Source: City of Johannesburg
Entrants from previous competitionshave become better drivers throughthe countrywide training opportunities.(Image: Arrive Alive) This year four of the country’s bestdrivers will win a snazzy Ses’ifikile taxi.(Image: Imperial Toyota)Janine ErasmusThousands of South African minibus taxi drivers who take pride in their work are competing for the coveted title of the country’s best.The Number One Taxi Driver competition has been running since 2004, with the 2011/2012 edition launched in December and the national finals scheduled to take place in June.The initiative was started by beverage company brandhouse, and is the flagship of its corporate social responsibility efforts to promote the responsible use of alcohol.With top brands such as Smirnoff, Amstel, Heineken and Captain Morgan in its portfolio, the company identified the taxi sector – with its vast reach into and influence on South African society – as the ideal target for the Number One competition.Working with Toyota South Africa, Caltex, the Department of Transport and the Road Traffic Management Corporation, brandhouse seeks to place responsible role models in the taxi industry, ready and able to inspire and educate their colleagues in road safety and good customer care.“The campaign is one of our key community enrichment programmes at brandhouse, aimed at not only promoting road safety within the minibus taxi industry but providing valuable skills to the drivers,” said brandhouse MD Gerald Mahinda.It’s a crucial part of the company’s efforts to make a meaningful difference in the lives of the communities that support it, he said. Over 25-million people use minibus taxis every day, and the general public opinion is that drivers are reckless and have very little regard for their passengers or fellow drivers.“Their bosses want money so they’re working under very strict conditions and it pushes them to go over emergency lanes and to drive recklessly,” said driving instructor Sthembiso Segolela, speaking at a testing session.Thousands of drivers to improve their skillsThe competition is promoted annually by distributing entry forms at taxi ranks, shopping centres and tollgates, and also through roadshows and other events, and has attracted thousands of hopefuls over the years.In this year’s competition, over 3 500 taxi drivers across the country have received training, in 53 testing sessions.The best of the best stand to win a 14-seater Ses’ifikile taxi, courtesy of Toyota – there will be four big winners this year – and each of the top provincial finalists will get petrol to the value of R50 000 (US$6 300) from Caltex. To top all of that, six taxi owners will each win fuel worth R20 000 ($R2 500) and three will get a R15 000 ($1 900) fuel package.Participating drivers are tested on their theoretical and practical knowledge and are trained in advanced and defensive driving procedures, such as keeping a correct following distance, the safest way to stop, and driving in bad weather. The Toyota Advanced Driving Academy conducted the testing in all nine provinces and will also oversee the final round.Adjudicators are currently adding up the scores to identify the finalists from each province.Of the 27 shortlisted drivers, only nine will make it to the last round, but the remaining 18 will each receive R3 500 ($444) just for taking part, and will also take away invaluable skills learned along the way.The finals will take place at the Gerotek facility in Hartebeespoort, northwest of Johannesburg. A division of Armscor Defence Institutes, Gerotek is a multi-purpose organisation that encompasses consultation, training, testing and evaluation services to the industrial, military and commercial vehicle industries.The chance of a lifetimePrevious winners and now proud owners of their own vehicles have used the opportunity to put their entrepreneurial ideas into practice.Mpumalanga’s Raymond Ngomane, the 2010 winner, wanted to be a better driver, but also had his eye on the top prize. He said his life has changed dramatically since being named the country’s best taxi driver.“Through this initiative, I have managed to realise both of my wishes. I am now a proud and responsible taxi owner,” said Ngomane, who is the sole breadwinner for his family. His first passenger was his 89-year-old grandmother.The winner in 2008 was Godfrey Mosala from the North West province, and in 2009 it was Lunga Ronnie Tilolo from the Eastern Cape who drove off with the big prize.
The stand-off between television artistes and a section of producers of Bengali serials was resolved on Thursday following the intervention of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. The Chief Minister appointed a “Conciliation Committee”, headed by veteran actor Soumitra Chatterjee, to look into the matter.Owing to disputes relating to regularisation of artistes’ payments and working hours of technicians, the shooting of a number of Bengali TV serials was stalled since August 18. After holding a meeting with different stakeholders at the State Secretariat during the day, Ms. Banerjee announced that shooting of television serials will resume from Saturday morning.“I thank all the members of the industry, especially the Chief Minister, for a peaceful resolution and helping us in forming this committee for our future endeavours,” Mr. Chatterjee said, expressing satisfaction at the outcome of the meeting. Mr. Chatterjee was once closely associated with the CPI(M).Ms. Banerjee said the television industry not only employs a lot of people but also has a lot of potential. “As someone from the audience I want the shooting to start. These days many women and men watch these serials. The viewership of these television serials is more than news channels,” she said.According to the Chief Minister, the issues in the industry are like a’ “minor illness” that can be sorted out by discussions. Ms Banerjee said that Joint Conciliation Committee will have members comprising artistes, writers, producers, technicians who will hold a meeting every month.
A Hizbul Mujahideen militant was killed in a pre-dawn operation of security forces on Sunday.“On a credible input, a cordon-and-search operation was launched at Chadoora’s Bugam area of Budgam. During the search operation, the hiding militants fired on the search party. One militant was killed and the body was later retrieved from the site of encounter,” the police said.The police identified the slain militant as Hilal Ahmad Bhat from Pulwama’s Armulla.“Bhat was affiliated with Hizb and was wanted by law for his complicity in attack on security establishments,” the police said.