Obed Mbatha

Born on 8 May 1942 in Mthashana in Vryheid. Mbatha is today regarded as the ‘face’ of the Hilton Hotel (Durban) where he has worked as head doorman for over 16 years.

Mbatha attended Bhekuzulu Primary School in Vryheid. In 1953 his family moved to Pietermaritzburg. He attended school in Edendale (Standard 7) and Ashtown Secondary (Standard 7-8). In 1959 his family relocated to Cato Manor and was forcibly removed from Cato Manor to KwaMashu. Mr. Mbatha completed Standard 9 at Durban Chestville Government School before entering industry.

He worked as an artisan (electrician) for Atlas Radio, Arthur Trevor Williams and the Sugar Terminus. In 1969 Mbatha left the Sugar Terminus to work at Dunlop Tyres as a fork lift driver before being promoted to foreman.

In 1994 Obed Mbatha joined the Hilton Hotel as a doorman. In 1996 he was promoted to head doorman. Mbatha is easily recognisable in tourism circles by his colourful badge-adorned jackets. Obed started collecting badges in 1997 which were given to him by foreign dignitaries and tourists alike. To date his collection consists of over 1496 badges, which cover two jackets.

In 2014 Mbatha was one of just 11 Hilton staff from 4 000 managed, franchised, owned and leased hotels and timeshare properties, to win the global hospitality company’s chief executive Light & Warmth Award. The annual award is the company’s highest honour, established to recognise exceptional team members who embody Hilton Worldwide’s values of hospitality, integrity, leadership and teamwork.

Mbatha is the only employee in the global group with permission to wear so many badges.

Everyone else wears a single name badge. Obed has received a special waiver to wear them,” said Fritz, who added that the popular head doorman was an icon for the industry.

Mbatha has welcomed countless heads of state, global leaders and VIPs – and thousands of other guests – down the years with a beaming smile and a jacket laden with badges from visitors from all over the world. He has more than 1 500 badges on two jackets, each one weighing 6.3kg.

Mr. Mbatha is a pastor at the Lambert Zwane Methodist Church. He lives with his family in KwaMashu.

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