The iconic Sakhumzi opened in 2001 as the first full-service restaurant on Vilakazi Street, the most famous street in South Africa. Vilakazi Street is the only street in the world that was once home to two Nobel Peace Prize winners — President Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu — and today is one of the country’s busiest tourism centres.
Sakhumzi is known for its traditional South African fare — ox liver, tripe, boerewors, steamed chicken, mielie pap. chakalaka, etc. — and is often a foreign tourist’s first taste of what South African food is all about.
Sakhumzi’s owner, Sakhumzi Maqubela, grew up on Vilakazi Street and opened the restaurant in his home when he realised more and more outsiders were coming to Soweto to visit the Mandelas’ home and other nearby tourist attractions. Rather than cook food for free for his friends, Sakhumzi decided to start charging for it. The business grew quickly, from an original staff of four to well over 100 employees 18 years later. Today Sakhumzi can accommodate hundreds of customers at a time.
Sakhumzi is right in the centre of the Vilakazi Street action — across the street from the Mandela house (which is now a museum) and surrounded by other restaurants and shops that have sprouted up like mushrooms since Sakhumzi first opened its doors.
This is not the place for those seeking a calm, quiet meal — especially on weekends or holidays. Sakhumzi is the place for those who want to embrace being South African tourists for an afternoon. Listen to the cacophony of the tour buses; enjoy the roaming bands of traditional dancers, souvenir vendors, and rowdy student groups; and most of all, take time to soak in the sense of history and people-watch while eating your food. Vilakazi Street always contains a fascinating cross section of humanity.
After lunch, take a few hours to browse the shops and explore the Mandelas’ house or the nearby Hector Pieterson Museum.
Sakhumzi is at 6980 Vilakazi Street, Orlando West, Soweto. Call 011-536-1379.