Khayelitsha’s winning kasi-style pizza

Breaking traditional Khayelitsha cuisine expectations, Nokuthula Sigaba has established Sweet n’ Lovely, the township’s first pizza joint.

In the past, many black people used to consider pizza as the food for rich white people.

But in Khayelitsha that perception has shifted substantially since the first pizza outlet was opened six years ago – the first of its kind in the township.

Nokuthula Sigaba, 51, opened the Sweet n’ Lovely pizza stall on a busy corner of Spine Road and Lwando Street in June 2013, after quitting her job at the Pizza Shack in Ottery where she fine-tuned her pizza-making skills.

Because of her endeavours, people from South Africa’s second-largest township do not have to travel to urban areas to get pizza. 

She started by operating from a small kiosk with one mobile pizza cooking oven. Today she has 16 employees and an ever-increasing customer base, with some coming from as far as Table View, a Cape Town suburb about 40 minutes away.

Sigaba says that she researched and discovered that every kind of food and take-away business was available in the township, other than pizza.

“That was when I decided to quit as a pizza baker and open this business,” she says, explaining that what started with one flavour of pizza is now a thriving business boasting  24 flavours and three kiosks. In addition to the original kiosk, the second, which opened in 2016, is in a house in Khayelitsha C section, and the third in Bardale, Mfuleni, which opened in January this year.

26 September 2019: Lucky Balfour makes pizza bases in the kitchen.
26 September 2019: Lucky Balfour makes pizza bases in the kitchen.

Top-selling flavours

Sigaba’s top-selling flavours are “Cape Town”, “Khayelitsha”, “Sweet & Lovely” and the vegetarian pizza. The Cape Town includes mushroom, onion, green pepper, beef mince, chicken and tomato and is priced at R120 or R85, depending on required size. The Khayelitsha is similar to the Cape Town but has more beef and sells for R90 or R60. Sweet & Lovely contains ham, bacon and chorizo, and sells for R100 or R75 while the vegetarian pizza, which has pineapple, feta and olives, is R80 or R50.

Sigaba says that 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.”

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In the beginning, Sigaba was sceptical, but she describes the support she has had as “overwhelming”. 

She’s also been experimenting with flavours: “I decided to try (some) with common mushroom and Vienna flavour.”

Paarl resident Nigel Scheepers, who works in Tygervalley, says he drives to Khayelitsha whenever he craves a pizza. “I drove from Tygervalley to buy this pizza for lunch, beating traffic before lunch ends,” he says. “Pizza here is good.”

Fulfilled employees

Sweet n’ Lovely pizza employee Lwanele Somerset said not only has he learnt how to make a pizza, but also he now 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.

Established in 1983, Khayelitsha, meaning “New Home”, is South Africa’s second-largest township after Soweto. It was established to accommodate shack settlement dwellers on the Cape Flats, the majority coming from Old Crossroads to escape violence by the “Witdoeke”, a notorious vigilante group.

Typical traditional Khayelitsha cuisine includes sheep’s head (famously known as “Smiley”), braaied chicken feet, a mixture of animals’ internal organs known as Isityhwehtywe and animal intestines, known as Amathumbu.

26 September 2019: Wanda Mane waits while pizza bases are prepared in the oven.
26 September 2019: Wanda Mane waits while pizza bases are prepared in the oven.

Pizza breaks all the rules, right in the middle of the township. Says Mayenzeke Vumendlini, 67, from Harare in Khayelitsha: “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. 

“I thought it was too expensive that even when my boss 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.”

Khaltsha: kasi-style pizza

Regular customer Lucia Zembe lives in Site B, which neighbours Khayelitsha. She says her favourite pizza is the Khayelitsha because “it is made the way like it – kasi style. It has too much meat and less cheese. We like meat in the township. And the good thing is that it is affordable.” She adds that the advantage of having a pizza outlet is that she doesn’t have to travel for pizza. 

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. 

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“We love pizza,” he says. “Since this outlet was opened, we stopped driving away for pizza. That means we save on petrol. The pizza is now within a five-minute walk.”

Zenani says she was sceptical in the beginning. “‘A pizza in Khayelitsha?’ That’s what I asked myself.” But if Mabandla had not insisted on buying at the outlet, she admits that would not have been the regular she is now. “He (Mabandla) came back with a pizza. I did not bother even looking at it since I knew where it was bought. He kept on eating and eating, smiling at me. I thought he was teasing me. But I noticed enjoyment on each gulp. That was when I decided to have some. Since then I never stopped coming here.”

Asked about her journey to establish a booming business in an environment where people are accustomed to traditional food, Sigaba says, “I had my doubts in the beginning. But I told myself that this is going to work, so let me try. There were times when I thought the business was going to close. I had one table with an umbrella which was often blown away by the wind in winter. People would queue in the rain waiting for pizzas baked in one oven. I told myself that I must face the reality that I will lose customers. But look at where I am today.”

26 September 2019: Lucky Balfour cuts a finished pizza
26 September 2019: Lucky Balfour cuts a finished pizza
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