Pizza has always been seen as white people’s food. But in Khayelitsha that perception shifted after the first pizza outlet was opened in the Cape Flats township six years ago.
Nokuthula Sigaba opened her Sweet ’n Lovely pizza stall — a small kiosk with a mobile pizza oven — on the busy corner of Spine Road and Lwando Street in June 2013, after she quit her job at the Pizza Shack in Ottery, where she fine-tuned her pizza-making skills.
Today she employs 16 people and has an ever-increasing customer base, with some patrons coming from as far as Table View, a Cape Town suburb about 40 minutes away.
Sigaba says that in her research she discovered that every kind of food and take-away was available in Khayelitsha, except for pizza.
“That was when I decided to quit as a pizza baker and open this business,” she says.
What started with one type of pizza is now a thriving business, boasting 24 different toppings.
Sigaba now has three kiosks. The second, which opened in 2016, is in a house in Khayelitsha C section and the third is in Bardale, Mfuleni, and opened in January this year.
Sigaba’s best-selling toppings are Cape Town, Khayelitsha, Sweet & Lovely and the vegetarian pizza. The Cape Town has a topping of mushroom, onion, green pepper, beef mince, chicken and tomato and costs R120 or R85, depending on the size. The Khayelitsha is similar to the Cape Town but has more beef and sells for R90 or R60. Sweet & Lovely’s topping consists of ham, bacon and chorizo and sells for R100 or R75. The vegetarian pizza, which has a topping of pineapple, feta and olives, costs R80 or R50.
Because of her endeavours, people from South Africa’s second-largest township do not have to travel to other urban areas to buy pizza.
Sigaba says the increase in demand has meant that there is a need for house deliveries.
“I get calls throughout the day,” she says, adding that she has employed seven people to help. “Some didn’t have experience in making pizza, but I trained them.”
In the beginning, Sigaba was sceptical, but she describes the support she has received as “overwhelming”.
She’s also been experimenting with toppings. “I decided to try [some pizzas] with common mushroom and Vienna flavour.”
Paarl resident Nigel Scheepers, who works in Tyger Valley, says he drives to Khayelitsha whenever he craves a pizza. “I drove from Tyger Valley to buy this pizza for lunch, beating traffic before lunch ends,” he says. “Pizza here is good.”
Lwanele Somerset, an employee at Sweet ’n Lovely, says not only has he learned how to make a pizza, but he now also has a stable job.
“I am employed in the township now and no longer need transport fare and money for lunch. And I know how to make a pizza now for the first time in my life,” he says.
Khayelitsha, which means “new home” in Xhosa, is about 30 minutes from the centre of Cape Town. It was established in 1983 by the apartheid government to accommodate people living in informal settlements on the Cape Flats, some of them leaving Old Crossroads to escape violence that flared up in a power struggle, with the supporters of one leader being the notorious Witdoeke.
Typical Khayelitsha cuisine includes sheep’s head (famously known as a smiley), braaied chicken feet, a mixture of animals’ internal organs known as isityhwehtywe and animal intestines, called amathumbu.
Pizza right in the middle of the township breaks all the rules.
Mayenzeke Vumendlini, who lives in a part of Khayelitsha called Harare, says: “I knew pizza as food for the rich white people. I thought that this thing was meant exclusively for the whites in those restaurants in upmarket [areas]. I thought it was too expensive that even when my boss, [who] I used to work for in the 1980s in Constantia, was asking me to throw stuff in the dustbin I never bothered to look at the price of pizza, even if it was in the box.”
Middle-class couple Luyolo Mabandla, a nurse, and his life partner, Noloubabalo Zenani, a teacher at Joe Slovo High School, say the arrival of Sweet ’n Lovely has had a positive effect on their wallets.
Regular customer Lucia Zembe lives in Site B in Khayelitsha, agrees, adding that the advantage of having a pizza outlet in the township is she doesn’t have to travel for pizza. “And the good thing is that it is affordable.”
She says her favourite pizza is the Khayelitsha because “it is made the way I like it — kasi style. It has too much meat and less cheese. We like meat in the township.”
This is an edited version of an article that was first published on New Frame