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Friday, June 24, 2022

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How this Joburg man turned to making pizza from his shack to stave off poverty

Published 18h ago


Johannesburg - If you know anything about living in the township you will know that pizza is a treat loved by everybody. Growing up, seeing someone walking down the street with a box from Debonairs would invoke feelings of envy.

Themba Limekhaya, 38, from Orange Farm, south of Johannesburg, is no different. His passion for pizza began at a young age but it was too expensive for him to afford.

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But then one day someone who had bought pizza offered him a slice. He fell in love with the dish from his first bite, and pizza quickly became his favourite meal.

He said: “I used to see people walking with those boxes. It always portrayed a certain lifestyle. The first time I had a slice of pizza I found it to be so delicious, but I could never afford it.”

He decided that he had to learn how to make pizza himself. He asked his neighbour to show him how to follow recipes and he made his first pizza. Themba then headed off to Siyabuswa in Mpumalanga to hone his new-found pizza-making skills.

Themba Limekhaya started Mkhukhu Pizza as a way to make a living and satisfy his love for the dish. Picture: Supplied

Upon his return to Johannesburg, Themba made one of his now-famous pizzas from his shack in Orange Farm and allowed two youngsters from his neighbourhood to sample his creation. They were blown away!

They shared the experience on Facebook, and the response has been overwhelming.

“People come from as far as Midrand and Centurion to support my business. Others come with business proposals, wanting to buy shares in my business and things like that,” he said.

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Customers come from far and wide to support Themba’s business after seeing it advertised on social media. Picture: Supplied

Themba sells his small pizza for R20, much cheaper than the R50 his more established competitors charge. His large pizza retails for R55.

He says his customers tell him that he charges too little for his quality product, but Themba argues that it is a strategy to establish himself and make his offering accessible to members of his community.

Themba decided to pay homage to his makeshift dwelling when it came to naming his fledgling business

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“When I was thinking of a name, I thought about where the pizza was made. When you translate Mkhukhu it means ‘shack’ in English, so I decided to call it Mkhukhu Pizza,” he said.

Themba’s mentor, Peter van Wyk, who has known Themba for more than 10 years, played a big part in Themba deciding to start his pizza-making business.

“Out of the blue he told me that someone had shown him how to make pizza. I bought him ingredients and he made one for me and it tasted good. I said to him ‘why don’t you give pizzas a try’ and that’s how he decided to go ahead with it,” he said.

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Themba has always had a knack for entrepreneurship. In Grade 11 he used the money his mother had given him to buy shoes to buy a camera in order to start a photography business.

“I took the money my mom had given me and I went to CNA and bought myself a Kodak KB10 camera. My friend and I would charge our classmates as little as R2.50 for pictures,” he said.

He went on to make a living with his photography business after completing his matric. He would take pictures at music events and weddings, but a downturn in business owing to the Covid-19 pandemic led to Themba having to find alternative ways to make money.

Van Wyk sees Themba making a success of his new venture.

He said: “I’d like to see Themba getting a better set-up. He is struggling with load shedding. It would be great to see him getting two or three wood-fire dome ovens. I know if he makes this thing work and he gets a bakkie, he’ll be gone.”

Themba wants to see his Mkhukhu Pizza business flourish so that he can expand and take it to other parts of the township and rural communities.

“My target market is the township. I want to professionalise my set-up. I still want to keep the look and feel of shack, but obviously make it nicer so that I can bring my food to the people and create employment,” he said.