The Gauteng Department of Sport, Arts, Culture and Recreation said reports that the iconic Eyethu Cinema in Soweto will be demolished imminently are false. The department is yet to approve the demolition of one of the first black-owned movie houses. However, an application has been received.
EYETHU CINEMA DEMOLITION NOT APPROVED
Social media mutterings and a report by the Citizen claim that Eyethu Cinema in Mofolo, Soweto will be razed and replaced by a shopping centre imminently.
The department countered the demolition claims in a statement on Monday, 25 October. The announcement, however, did not rule out the possibility that the cinema, which was built in 1969, could be demolished.
“According to the Heritage Act, approval by a heritage authority is required for the demolition, improvement or otherwise of a structure that has any heritage significance including the ones over 60 years that will be impacted upon by any development.
“The department would therefore, like to officially state that no approval has been granted to have Eyethu Cinema demolished,” said the provincial arts and culture department.
The department confirmed that an application – with a Heritage Impact study – was received by the Provincial Heritage Resources Authority of Gauteng (PHRA-G).
The matter is still under review in terms of Section 38 of the National Heritage Resources Act 25 of 1999 and some of the required information and details are outstanding.
The department described the matter as “complex” and said PHRA-G views the Eyethu Cinema as a “significant heritage, cultural and social site with possibilities of restoration, hence the matter is being handled with the required due diligence and sensitivity.”
The department said a decision on the cinema’s fate would not be taken without extensive consultation and engagement with the public and relevant stakeholders.
Eyethu Cinema was where Joe Bullet – the first South African film with an all-black cast – made its debut on 1 January 1973.
The film, which starred legendary local actor Ken Gampu, had two screenings before censors from the apartheid regime banned it.