Giving up is not something that Mthokozisi Madlala and his partners believe in. Despite an economic recession and the Covid-19 pandemic, they decided to open a butchery that prides itself on quality service. Madlala and his partners, Sthembiso Mthembu and Nomvula Mthembu, co-own RMS Butchery and Shisanyama. It operates in Eskhawini in KwaZulu-Natal.
Madlala said that they started the business in October. It helped that Mthembu knew the butchery business, which he has worked in for more than 15 years. “In the area we opened the butchery, there was a butchery that closed down years ago, so we saw an opportunity to start a butchery,” he said. “We sell A-grade meat we stock from a local abattoir. We sell different kinds of meat including beef, lamb and pork and also provide shisanyama services.”
The butchery currently has two employees, but the three owners are hands-on. Madlala said that opening a business during lockdown was a mission. They faced multiple hurdles that would have shut down many enterprises. “Things like rent have to be paid, stock has to be bought and utilities and salaries also have to be paid,” he told Vutivi News. “As black South Africans, we are not in a privileged position to have over R300,000 start-up capital for example. We have to work with what we already have which is our own money.”
Madlala said another challenge was that shisanyamas had been heavily affected by the alcohol bans. “Shisanyamas and alcohol are closely linked, so when there are alcohol bans the food traffic is greatly reduced,” he said. “The spending strength of patrons is weakened due to the fact that we are in a technical recession made worse by Covid-19, and many South Africans have not recovered.” Madlala believes that foreigners have an advantage due to their combined buying power.
“When foreign nationals, including the Chinese, start businesses, they know they have six months’ worth of utilities and expenses covered. “Black South Africans cannot afford that. But we persevere in the face of these difficulties, whereas other businesses would have closed down already,” he said.
Madlala said that the butchery had to rely on their other companies to make it through South Africa’s economic storm. “I have two businesses. I own Window Smash&Grab, which fixes windows broken by smash and grab accidents. I also have a startup small-scale goat farming side business,” he said. The trio divides the expenses amongst themselves. “We cover the business’ expenses on our own and split the expenses which include utilities and salaries, hoping that the food traffic will increase,” he said.
“If push comes to shove, we might have to close shop because of the strenuous economic conditions.” However, he hopes it will not reach this point. In December, the butchery started doing exceptionally well, and was “picking up speed”. Madlala believed a reason for this was that they were serious about customer satisfaction.
“We give our customers the choice to give feedback on our products and on our services in-store,” he said. “Many of our customers prefer our butchery because it is very clean and hygienic, and our meat is of a quality that they would much rather spend a pretty penny on.”