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The township of Soweto to the south-west of Johannesburg has transformed from a legacy of the apartheid era to a vibrant, energetic hub that will ignite your senses and immerse you in true South African culture. TThe thriving heart of Soweto is one of the most well-known streets in South Africa, Vilakazi Street.
WWhile Vilakazi Street may be the only street in the world that can claim to have had two Nobel Laureates as residents - the late Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu. The true electricity of this street comes from those who now call it home, each with their own beautiful stories.
Sakhumzi Restaurant is located on Vilakazi Street near the Mandela House Museum. The restaurant started after a group of friends would gather to tell stories and build friendships. Inevitably hunger would kick in and the smell of delicious meal being cooked in Sakhumzi Maqubela’s home would tempt these and Sakhumzi found himself sharing his dinner every night.
In the true spirit of uBuntu (Ubuntu is an ancient African word meaning 'humanity to others'. It is often described as reminding us that 'I am what I am because of who we all are), everyone contributed to the ingredients and drinks and before long the lounge had become an informal shebeen (informal licensed drinking place in a township). The eating areas soon spilled over into every room of the house.
Now, people come from all over the world to taste the authentic kasi flavour. What makes it special is that the famous tree is still rooted in the place where it all began.
Sakhumzi, which means “building a house”, is popular for its Soweto-style buffet - a variety of proudly South African traditional cuisine such as umngqusho (samp and beans), mogodu (tripe) and dombolo (steamed bread). Travellers can also feast on the range of self-styled signature dishes named after various Soweto locations.
Sakhumzi has over the years not only contributed to the vibrant energy of Vilakazi Street, but also had a massive impact on the inhabitants of Vilakazi Street. Refiloe Mosala started out working as a waitress at Sakhumzi’s and paid to put herself through law school and has built her own law firm.
Lindi and Bongani Sidisi started a small business supplying meat to Sakhumzi and have built a thriving family legacy.
Sakhumzi’s restaurant has created additional employment opportunities when they started the Sakhumzi farm. Mandla Nxumalo is the manager of the farm and he also works to maintain a thriving urban farm on the outskirts of Soweto.
Lonwabo Mhlope who is a proud resident wanted to ensure that the visitors to Vilakazi Street can soak up the atmosphere and enjoy all this electric place has to offer with peace of mind. He started a private security firm which patrols the area and ensures the safety of both residents and visitors alike.
The entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well the length of this famous street. Neo Mamashela was retrenched from her job, and instead of feeling defeated she worked to set up a thriving B and B which hosts travellers from all over the world with warmth, care and attention to detail.
Adding to the energy of this precinct are a troupe of performers called the Soweto Skeleton Movers who have gone on to world fame, from humble beginnings as street performers. Tachma Mametja also saw an opportunity to share her exquisite talent with visitors to the area. She works very closely with Lebo Malepa, the owner and founder of Lebo’s Soweto Backpackers, a popular accommodation for travellers from all over the world.
Another wonderful story born from Vilakazi Street is that of the Box Shop. Lifestyle retail enterprise The Box Shop on Vilakazi Street, Soweto is an incubator established to help young entrepreneurs overcome obstacles often faced by owners of SMEs (small to medium businesses). The Box Shop creates job opportunities for young entrepreneurs to extend their businesses in global markets.