Yeoville: A Pan-African Nurturer


South Africa was once known for its xenophobic riots, the former apartheid state still suffers from such in some areas of the beautiful country. Just like any other African country, some articles and stories that get written about the country and certain portions of its geography are not always the most favorable. Yeoville, is no exception, when it comes to misrepresentation by the media, all one hears about Yeoville, is crime, drugs and chaos! And yet, my first visit to this pan-African colorful corner, saw me fall in love with the area and take a decision to reside in it.

Yeoville is the center where all types of Africa’s children can feel at home, if you are Nigerian, Zimbabwean, Congolese, JAMAICAN, Tanzanian etc…….you can live comfortably in Yeoville, meet people of your own culture and even eat food hailing from your birthplace.  It is a vibrant suburb, where bohemian life is not shun upon, in fact any type of lifestyle you choose is acceptable, hailing from the fact that many a liberal minds historically chose the little ghetto paradise.

The artistic city, houses a number of beautiful eat-outs, nightclubs, studios, homes etc…..

One of which, is Sanza Sandile, or as he should be rightfully called Sanza Sanzational!

Sanza, is xhosa, and has lived in Yeoville pretty much all his life. A man who has passion for food, he knows and understands cultural diversity so much that he has travelled Africa and schooled himself on the continent’s culinary secrets. He is the only South African that I know who can teach me a thing or two about pondu (what we call Isombe in Rwanda), he has a recipe where he cooks the pondu with black eyed beans to make a very delicious gravy that goes with chapattis (yes chapattis). Sanza fuses Nigerian, Congolese and even INDIAN, and all other African cuisines to come up with uniquely mystic tastes. In his own words: “Here Nigerians love me, because they know I do my best, and the Congolese also love me because they know I try”.

I first met Sanza at the Neighbourgoods Market in Braamfontein where he has a stool called Mystic Yeoville African Vegetarian. I had just converted to vegetarianism, and I could not find African vegetarian recipes so it was such a pleasure to taste his food, and I have been hooked since! It was a bit of a battle to get an interview with this talented man, but eventually, Sanza and I had a very short but pleasant sit-down. On the day that I met with Sanza Sandile, his newborn was 29 days old, he mentioned this in passing, but I couldn’t help noticing the joy and pride that lit his face up as he said this; he is a responsible man, and this is seen in the way he treats his patrons who mostly hail from all corners of Africa. Although we have heard many rum ours about veteran Yeoville residents moving out, Sanza is adamant that he will not leave as it he sees it as his community, and his contribution can be seen in the way he embraces all cultures that frequent his eatery.

He gave me a taste of a unique blend of banana, cassava and yoghurt smoothie that is so nutritiously healthy it made my tummy smile, just hear me out here, the smoothie had: Banana (good for blood sugar, digestion AND depression), Cassava (rich in protein, amino acids, iron etc.), yoghurt (which is very beneficial especially for women, in the prevention of candida infections etc.). Sanza’s good food is indeed a hub of good food; and in a culture where good food has been taking a back seat with the popularization of fast foods, it is important to hail heroes such as Sanza, who not only embrace their African heritage but also look after their consumers by making sure that their foods are healthy and nutritious.

Sanza’s spice rack is filled with all types of spices and this is where the Indian influence comes in with his cuisine. There was a jar in particular that grabbed my interest, it was filled with prunes that he had pickled in vinegar and then dried out, Sanza is not one to be deterred by experiments in the kitchen and by far, his experiments seems to be working! I am an avid health freak and Sanza’s gets a thumbs up.

Yeoville, also has a Pan African market that has all sorts of foods from all over the continent, if you are Congolese, you can find chikwanga and smoked fish, perfumed rice, yam for the West African palate and ibitoki/matoke for the East Africans; all sorts of legumes. Now, international settlers are a hard working group, and they find themselves retiring at odd hours on a daily basis, not to despair; as the Yeoville Pan African market is open until late, and it is a one stop spot, you can get your clothes stitched, your shoes repaired, AND even accommodation from the nearby Shoprite.

Yeoville might be called “hood” but it is an uncanny hood, a welcoming hood for many, including myself.

Last but not least, is Rasta House! A place of love, a place where no one harasses you, even dem Babylon followers cyaan put out rasta house’s fuyah. This is a place that deems a visit from the reader in order to understand fully how vibrant it is! There is a studio, and the music played is conscious! Not one song plays without a message, and the people you are going to meet there will be conscious humble soldiers. (Read our next issue for more on Rasta House)

 Nearby Rasta house, is Malalaika, a Nigerian pub/restaurant where you can find pretty much anything Nigerian.

Yeoville, is an international nurturer in this country most have deemed unwelcoming to foreigners. It is a nest where everyone is welcome and without prejudice everyone can feel at home.

By Lady Mahogany.