Entrepreneur Mzoli Ngcawuzele celebrates 20 years in the shisa nyama game in Gugulethu
Renowned shisa nyama entrepreneur Mzoli Ngcawuzele is not only good at serving high-quality food to customers, he also believes in lasting quality when buying items for his eight-room house in NY111, Gugulethu.
“I buy once. I invest money and get something that will last forever. It’s less maintenance that way,” says Ngcawuzele.
Ngcawuzele can afford a house anywhere he wants, but he and his wife, Phindiwe, made Gugulethu their home, despite its reputation for crime.
He says Gugulethu is close to his heart and he can’t imagine living anywhere else.
“I am attached to this place. I will never leave. I have everything I want here.
“My family was displaced from the city and forced to relocate to Gugulethu in the 1960s under the Group Areas Act. I have been here since, and it feels like home now,” he says.
Ngcawuzele’s spot, Mzoli’s Place, in part helped bring tourism to Gugulethu. Locals who had never ventured to a former township and foreigners began to go there for weekend braais at his restaurant.
His house appears standard from the outside, that is until you enter through an electric gate where elegance is hidden by a face-brick wall and a white door to the garage.
Immediately after opening a second wooden garage door, you find three separate outdoor flats before entering the main house.
Ngcawuzele, also a property developer who has recently been in the spoltight, takes me through to a small sitting room with two prized black-and-white photos: One of his late father, Mthozameli, and another of Ngcawuzele running during a track race for Western Province in the 1970s.
Although his career was not documented, Ngcawuzele was a record holder in 5000m and 1500m track in the 1980s. He was a prolific runner in the Western Province Athletics Association during his heyday.
“I still love athletics. I ran for the Western Province under the South African Council of Sport. I am one of their products,” he says.
Ngcawuzele, along with another top athlete of the time, Joe Siyalana, was detained for 10 weeks during the 1976 countrywide riots.
He says he chose his home because “I wanted something better for my family. I then extended it to be a family house where my grandchildren will have a home”.
Ngcawuzele has a daughter, Sisanda, who is married to Melikhaya Mangele and they have three boys. Ngcawuzele tragically lost two sons, Unathi at age 26 in a drowning incident in 2007, and Mandisi, aged 31, in a car accident in 2009.
It was at this house in Gugulethu where Ngcawuzele started selling meat from the garage in 1998, and by 2003 the business had gained enough traction to be a popular hangout. It later moved to its current spot, where it has been visited by famous faces including DJ Fresh and celebrity TV chef Jamie Oliver.
The main bedroom is off to the left. He says it is his favourite room in the house because of the sunshine that beams through all day long, and he loves relaxing here.
One of his loved items here is an old silver stylish portable quality air-conditioner with a radio. Hidden behind glass sliding double doors is a dressing room with two double brown wardrobes – one for his clothes and one for Phindiwe’s.
A long passage connects rooms, and there are pine ceilings throughout.
“My ceiling are covered with pine because in this way I avoid having to paint regularly. I have laminated wood on the floor. We clean it once a week.”
He married Phindiwe in 1982 but they started dating in 1973, and it is mostly her favourite colours of peach and white that adorn the house.
“They are summer colours and I love them,” she says.
The main sitting room has expensive-looking light brown two-seater soft leather couches and another one that can serve as a bed as well. It is decorated with Ngcawuzele’s two favourite paintings he has had for more than a decade, and one is by his nephew, Thandofika Zeka.
Ngcawuzele’s brown kitchen boasts built-in cupboards complementing the colour. It is his wife who does the cooking, he says.
“I like to cook him vegetables and fish. I want him to stay healthy,” she says.
Next to the kitchen is a bathroom with a big bath and a low shower. It is decorated with grey tiles. Opposite the kitchen is a dining room with a wood table and chairs. Phindiwe says it is often filled with family, friends and grandchildren.
Of all the things he has in his house, it is these he loves most: “I love my two paintings in the sitting room and my late father’s photo taken with a film camera and my picture taken while I was running for Western Province.”
* Mzoli’s is a do-it-yourself market and eatery, selling meat to patrons who in turn hire independent entrepreneurs running braai stalls on the grounds to grill the meat and prepare meals. It has become noted as a venue for deep house and kwaito music.