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Langa eatery pride of Africa's biggest tourism event

Apr 17 2015 07:28

Cape Town - Six years ago, 51-year-old Nomonde Siyaka transformed her family's home in Langa into a two-storey traditional African food restaurant. Now, she's networking with the best.

This week Siyaka's family business, Mzansi Restaurant, was among nine local businesses selected for the City of Cape Town's stand at the World Travel Market Africa event.

This is part of the Africa Travel Week currently underway at the Cape Town International Convention Centre and is one of the continent's biggest international travel events. Other local businesses chosen were Khayelitsha Travel, Sesfikile Wines and Enchanted Guest House.

“I love cooking,” Siyaka said. "This is what kept me going in this business because I'm passionate about this business.

"It was tough when we first started out and if I didn't love it so much, I would've stopped a long time ago,” Siyaka said.

She and her husband credit her late mother for the idea for the restaurant. “About 10 years ago we used to host live jazz sessions once a month. We charged an entry fee and served food and drinks, but we weren't making a big profit.

“My mother was very business-minded. She saw all the tour buses driving past Langa on the N2 and suggested we start a restaurant, which caters for tourists. There was no money at the time, so we started saving,” she said.

Siyaka said after a year of renovations, Mzansi opened its doors for the first time in April 2008.

“Unfortunately my mother didn't make it to the opening because she died in January that year. It was difficult for us at first to get the tour guides and operators to bring people here, because they were scared. It took about five years before our business started making a profit. We renovated bit by bit as we saved and it's still not finished. We serve big groups, so we need a bigger kitchen,” she said.

The main dining area, which was once a bedroom, and a small lounge is now filled with an array of colourful paintings and traditional African items. It can comfortably seat more than 50 guests. The restaurant also has a small bar and a live entertainment area.

While Siyaka often gets requests for braais and sheep’s head, her main menu consists of daily traditional foods, including Umxhaxha, which is butter mixed with corn and aubergine, samp and beans, and all the root vegetables.

The family entertain their guests with stories about their family and the history of Langa. This is followed by a demonstration of the Pata Pata dance and a short lesson by a live marimba band. Siyaka, her husband and their two children live on the second storey of the building. Three men are employed to watch the tour vehicles while the guests are busy.

“We only work by booking and it varies throughout the year. This month is very busy for us with all the student groups and then it goes quiet in winter. We don't have permanent staff, but we usually have four people who help me in the kitchen when we cater for larger groups, and the rest are waiters.

“We are open every day, but we only work when a booking has been made in advance,” she said.

“I would love to keep this business going and leave a legacy for my children,” Siyaka said.

In a statement this week, the city's acting mayoral committee member for Tourism, Events and Economic Development, Xanthea Limberg, said the World Travel Market Africa event gave local entrepreneurs the opportunity to rub shoulders with tourism experts worldwide.

“These businesses will have had the opportunity to test market interest, evaluate the competition and position themselves in the global market. The potential customers at the event are key decision makers in the travel industry,” she said.

- See more at GroundUp.

travel  |  entrepreneur  |  tourism
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