August 06, 2007

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Mzoli’s Meat

"Organizations like the Development Bank of South Africa have been specifically set up to support new black-owned businesses like Mzoli’s."

By Unathi Kondile

Listen to this Commentary!

In post-apartheid South Africa, the government's economic empowerment policies are beginning to show results - a growing black middle class that’s nearly doubled in size since 1994, when apartheid ended. More young blacks are going to college, earning business and marketing degrees, capitalizing on the drive toward “Black Economic Empowerment”. So where does this up and coming young black middle class go to spend disposable income? In Cape Town, Youth Radio's Unathi Kondile reports, it's a most unlikely destination - a butcher shop on the outskirts of the city.


Mzoli’s Meat is the place to be seen on any given night in the Cape Town area - even though it’s in the heart of the Gugulethu township - a low income, black neighborhood. Big shot politicians and television stars make appearances here on a regular basis. So do young blacks from across South Africa’s income brackets. It’s a mix of Gugulethu residents, young entrepreneurs and accountants, as well as college students.

This is like a second home for black people who’ve come to Cape Town from other parts of the country to study and work. In fact, I’m from the Eastern Cape - a good six hundred miles from Cape Town. Mzoli’s Meat is where I can unwind from the hassle of the university and my part time job. It’s a good place to network and meet folks from other South African locales.

Inside, trays of raw meat, from chicken to tripe, are handpicked by the customer, then slathered in secret sauce and carried out to Mzoli's grill professionals, who barbecue the meat to tenderness over smoldering wood chips. Add a boisterous crowd and some deep house music to the mix, and you've got one of the most bumping joints in Cape Town.

Owner Mzoli Ngcawuzele says the place is not just about meat, music and dancing. He sees his club as a response to the government's call to improve the lives of all black South Africans. Most still haven’t benefited from this call. Ngcawuzele wants to bring services to their doorsteps.

MZOLI (on tape)
There's a wind of change...a new democracy, and we're doing things according to today's times, for the benefit of our communities.

UNATHI
Meat - stimulating democracy? Something to chew on. South Africa’s government is trying ensure that at least ten percent of corporations’ shares are black owned, and organizations like the Development Bank of South Africa have been specifically set up to support new black-owned businesses like Mzoli’s. Twenty-year old Thembi Mdlanga says Mzoli’s exemplifies the ways black people are capitalizing on these new opportunities.

THEMBI (on tape)
In the olden days they waited for white people to be on top, come up with the ideas...but I think now, they are really doing something for themselves.

UNATHI
Here at Mzoli's - there are three gleaming ATMs lined up for your personal use. Until recently, township residents have always had to travel miles from home to withdraw their cash from banks. Ngcawuzele says it makes sense for banks to locate cash machines nearby or inside the township.

MZOLI (on tape)
When you talk about services for our communities, there was nothing in the township. These are the emerging markets.

UNATHI
DJ Fresh is one of South Africa's most popular DJS.

DJ FRESH (on tape)
This is where everybody comes, the buzzing place in Cape Town...

UNATHI
He says for some people, this little barbecue joint represents aspiration.

DJ FRESH (on tape)
You're finding guys in extremely expensive SUVs here, but you're also finding people...locals...who are not necessarily employed, but are here anyway just to hang out. So it's the melting pot of everybody who is either climbing the ladder, who is at the top of the ladder, or sees the ladder and wonders, "What do I do with this ladder?"

UNATHI
Townships were mostly created during the apartheid era, under the separation acts of that government, and some of us don’t really want to be here. I never thought I'd see the day where I'd be sitting in this neighborhood, chewing on a choice cut of meat, watching fashionistas blast music in their Beamers and SUVs. I could be in a fancy restaurant in town, but instead, I’m back in the township - the very same place I’ve been trying to get out of for so long.

photo View a Photo Gallery


Live entertainment at Mzoli's Meat attracts a wide range of party-goers.
Credit:Unathi Kondile, Youth Radio


Crowds gather outside, leaving little room to park.
Credit:Unathi Kondile, Youth Radio


"Owner Mzoli Ngcawuzele says the place is not just about meat, music and dancing. He sees his club as a response to the government's call to improve the lives of all black South Africans."


Three ATMs lined up outside of Mzoli's indicates econmic growth in South African townships.
Credit:Unathi Kondile, Youth Radio


"When you talk about services for our communities, there was nothing in the township. These are the emerging markets."


Young entrepreneurs come to unwind and mingle with other South Africans.
Credit:Unathi Kondile, Youth Radio

Related YR Stories:
· Cape Town's Car Guard
· Adjusting to University
· Growing Up Colored in South Africa
· BEN Bikes
· My Dear Friend Zulami


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