The two-story Mzansi Restaurant in Langa, Cape Town is the brainchild of Siyabulela Siyaka’s mother Nomonde, who turned the family’s home into a traditional African food stop in 2008.
Siyaka has been involved in the family business for several years and he also works as a tour operator in Langa, one of the country’s oldest townships. Langa was established in 1927 in terms of the 1923 Urban Areas Act, as a specially designated black area, before apartheid was formalised. It was the site of much struggle and resistance against white minority rule.
“It has a very rich history and culture; it’s been quite busy producing music legends such as Brenda Fassie and sports legends,” Siyaka says.
Mzansi Restaurant serves traditional African foods: the menu includes umngqusho, umbhako and umxhaxha. There are also vegetarian options available. Reservations are required, as the venue aims to create a complete experience with a live marimba band.
Siyaka adds that Langa is convenient for tourists, as the township is close to Cape Town International Airport and the CBD. “It’s the coolest job on earth; I don’t need to sit behind a PC, I just tell people my story and then I invoice them,” Siyaka says.
He is passionate about the community benefits of tourism in Langa and estimates that a minimum of eight businesses benefit from each tourist that enters the township, such as the tour guide and driver, food sellers and crafts people. Siyaka is encouraged that some people who have come to Langa have chosen to donate their time, skills or money to community projects.
The visitors hosted by the Siyakas are a mix of local and international travellers. Foreign guests usually want to understand and experience Langa’s culture, while South Africans are often drawn to the birthplace of Afropop icon Brenda Fassie and want to see her childhood home.
Siyaka says there is a general lack of awareness in Langa about the benefits of tourism, and thinks more should be done to educate people about the value of attracting visitors. He is also concerned that the positive aspects of township life receive little coverage, while incidents of crime “go viral”.