Neo Mamashela and Ellen Mabiletsa are two women who are reaping the rewards and gaining recognition for successfully converting their living spaces into guesthouses. Earlier this year they were announced the winners of the 2004 AA Travel Guide Awards for Best Traditional Township Accommodation and Best Modern Township Accommodation respectively.
The two women triumphed after a vigorous selection process and a thorough inspection of the houses.
"The AA Travel Guide sent over inspectors to come and check the house. They checked everything - even the taps to see if cold water comes out of the taps with blue dots. They flushed every toilet and checked every cup and plate to see if they were chipped. They even checked under the mattresses for dust," reports Mabiletsa, the owner of the Botle guesthouse.
"I realised that when people come here, they sometimes need to hold meetings. I found that, especially during the summit, people needed a place to discuss the business."
A rather pleasing feature of the conference room is the skylight. "My guests love this room. Sometimes they prefer to have breakfast in here in the mornings than in the dining room," says Mabiletsa.
The main bedroom ? or the "executive suite", as Mabiletsa calls it ? comes with a queen-size bed, an en-suite bathroom, wall-to-wall burgundy carpets, cupboards, a television, a radio, a heater, bedside lamps and extra bedding.
Mamashela's house retains its original form, unlike the Botle guesthouse, which has completely replaced the earlier house.
"This house used to be a creche; that's why you will see there are three toilets outside. My grandfather bought it and I found out only after I got married that the first grandchild to get married would inherit the house," says Mamashela.
Neo's B&B is a charming kaleidoscope of colours. Matching, non-matching, bright and dull ? they're everywhere. From the kitchen-cum-dining room, all the way to the two bedrooms, one is greeted by colour.
The main bedroom ? in cream and lime-green, with a beige ottoman at the foot of the queen-size bed ? is the epitome of cosiness. The second room has two separate single beds. "Very useful," says Mamashela, "when people come here with more than one child."
Probably the most popular feature is the thatched wooden deck in her garden: it provides welcome shelter in summer and is perfect for soaking up the sun in winter.
Mamashela has hosted people from Germany, London and elsewhere. "We get people coming from all over the world ? businessmen, journalists, all types of people, but most of them are from overseas," says Mamashela.
Small local demand
Mamashela and Mabiletsa are proud of their homes and their achievements. "I love this place and it felt really, really nice to get that award," says Mamashela.
"When I walked up on stage I felt proudly South African," says Mabiletsa. "The award came at the perfect time ? after 10 years of democracy and the announcement of the Soccer World Cup bid. This award is not for me, this is for my people."
Stay in Soweto
For bookings and enquiries contact Neo's B&B (Neo Mamashela) on (011) 536 0413 or 082 629 2284, and Botle Guesthouse (Ellen Mabiletsa) on (011) 982 1872 or 082 838 1886.
Both establishments offer breakfast, dinner on request, a laundry service and guided tours of Soweto.
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