A DIFFERENT KIND OF BADGE FOR HILTON’S DOORMAN
By: Sinenhlanhla Mthembu
Obed Mbatha is one of Durban’s most recognisable men.
He is distinctive not just for the fact that he is doorman at the Hilton Hotel, one of Durban’s most recognisable establishments, or because of his warm, friendly, broad smile. What stands out is Mbatha’s jacket, which has a personality almost as distinctive as its owner.
The jacket – a simple, unremarkable black blazer – is brought to life by hundreds of badges Mbatha has pinned onto it. How many, exactly? At least 1 500. His jacket is so full, that most days he has to pin some of them on his tie.
Some of the badges are from visiting heads of state and global leaders, and some from regular visitors who just felt drawn to his sense of humour and bubbly spirit.
And now the 71-year-old has a new badge to add to his collection – and this could be his most prized.
Hilton Worldwide, which owns the chain of luxury hotels, named Mbatha as one of just 11 global recipients of the company’s Light & Warmth Award. More than 3000 people were nominated, but for Hilton Worldwide president Christopher Nassetta, it was Mbatha that stood out.
The award is to recognise exceptional team members who embody Hilton Worldwide’s values of hospitality, integrity, leadership and teamwork.
Despite his latest achievement, Mbatha refuses to take the credit.
“It’s all about God, who provides,” he says, flashing his trademark smile. Given this attitude, it’s no wonder that he is also a pastor at the Lambert Zwane Methodist Church.
His boss and general manager Markus Fritz described him as an inspiration for every team member in the world.