Thursday, January 29, 2009

A good Cause

I love a noble cause. I read this feel good article in the Argus tonight. I have actually eaten Sibanye's food, it's outstanding!! No doubt.

Dream meals at Sibanye
January 29, 2009 Edition 1

Angelique Arde

A new restaurant in Hout Bay's Mandela Park is the talk of the town. And it's attracting a vibrant mix of white suburbanites and township folk, all hungry for more than just a good meal.

Nathan Roberts and Randy McKnight aren't your average entrepreneurs. In fact, they're unlikely friends, let alone business partners.

Nathan, 22, is white, educated and from an affluent Hout Bay home. Randy, 20, is black, never finished school, and lives in a shack in Mandela Park.

But the two are best mates and apart from a mutual love of break-dance and good food, they share a vision of South Africans, black and white, seated around a table talking, laughing and eating together as they forge real friendships like the one that Nathan and Randy share.

So they've created a space conducive for such a feast: a township restaurant called Sibanye - Xhosa for "We are One".

Situated not far from the graveyard entrance to Mandela Park (also known as Imizamo Yethu), Sibanye opened its doors a month ago and has already attracted a good mix of locals from Mandela Park and Hout Bay village.

On offer is a dinkum South African experience. And it really is the real deal, from the corrugated iron shack not unlike those inhabited by a significant number of South Africans, to the authentic African fare - think lip-smacking chicken livers with "ngwinya" (vetkoek that would make your ouma green with envy) or pap and meat, smothered in tomato and onion gravy.

The average meal costs R25 - though impressed patrons have been known to pay several times the price on the menu.

It's early days for Sibanye, but already the restaurant has a fair number of regulars and sales are growing steadily.

But for Nathan and Randy, it's less about the number of meals sold per day and more about the number of conversations being had and cultural barriers overcome.

Nathan remembers one of his first visits to Mandela Park in the early days of his friendship with Randy. "We went for a meal at one of the braai shacks and an old man, about 60 years old, called me over.

"I was scared. I didn't know what to expect. He said, 'Come here!' So I went to him and he said, 'Sit down.' I sat down and he took his plate of food and put half of it on a plate for me and said, 'Eat with me.'

"I felt like crying. I couldn't believe it. Afterwards I thought, 'Wow, I want more people like me to experience this.'

"That's the kind of love I get from my friends here.

"I think the white guys in Hout Bay, being so separated, are robbed of any chance to experience that."

Randy's face lights up. "We want white people to come and experience what's happening here. A friend of Nathan's was here taking photographs recently and one old guy said to me, 'I love what you're doing. Bring more people here to show them what's happening.' "

Nathan says that whenever they take white people into Mandela Park the locals get excited.

"The young people are ready for it," he says. "The hurts of the past aren't that bad with them."

Written on the wall behind Randy and Nathan is an extract from Mandela's statement during the Rivonia trial. It reads: "I have fought against white domination and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic, free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die."

Though they may be too young to remember Madiba's release from prison or his inauguration as president, Randy and Nathan revere him and his values.

"Part of what drives me is the feeling that what Nelson Mandela began hasn't been finished. When it happened - when freedom was won - everyone stopped as if the work was done. And now we blame the government for everything. But there needs to be more of this kind of stuff, where we're still fighting," says Nathan.

While Nathan and Randy have been good friends for about four years, they have their differences, and both admit that their cultural differences are a daily challenge.

"It's difficult," says Nathan. "Our differences play out in the way that we see things. In business, it makes it very complicated.

"We've realised we need to keep very short tabs with each other. We need to be honest and open all the time - and every day we discuss what the tensions are. It needs extra care. A normal business needs that, but more so when you're inclined to misinterpret things.

"There are lots of challenges, but it's worth pushing through because the positives far outweigh them."

As Randy and Nathan's friendship has grown, so has the Sibanye dream. There are plans to do more exciting things. Randy and co-chef Lorraine Makeleni are keen to go slightly gourmet when the time is right and the guys have friends who want to run art workshops for children, entrepreneurial courses and healing workshops under the Sibanye banner.

"So many people have helped us because they believe in what we're doing. We've been given start-up capital; people have offered their expertise and services for free - everything from business advice to logo and website design. And Another Love Production is even making a documentary about us. In turn, we want to serve others."

True to their word, they're helping a Malawian friend get his business off the ground. When he's up and running, he'll be commissioned to make Sibanye T-shirts and mugs and merchandise for the tourists they will eventually host.

"We're excited. We will succeed. Because we are Sibanye and we are going to work together."

Sibanye is open Monday to Saturday from 9am to 9pm. If you plan to pop in for lunch, booking is essential. Call 082 568 7978 to make a reservation. For more info e-mail"

I think you should get through there and have a meal. You won't regret the experience. Ok, I am punting this place on a music blog, I know, but it's my friend's restaurant. Sue me.

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