Meet the woman behind Ndwamba Market, Nyanga East's first supermarket
Khosi Liwani remembers working the ancient till of her father's spaza shop as a little girl, standing on a crate to reach the buttons to give customers the correct change.
Today, she watches with pride as her three cashiers use top-of-the-range scanners to ring up her customers' purchases as hundreds of shoppers walk the aisles fully stocked with everything from boerewors to baking powder.
Liwani, 45, owns Ndwamba Market in Nyanga East, one of two Western Cape stores upgraded as part of a partnership between Pick n Pay, the Old Mutual Foundation, Masisizane Fund, Brimstone, the Western Cape Department of Economic Development and Tourism, and the City of Cape Town.
The supermarket chain's spaza modernisation programme upgrades small stores with new refrigeration, IT systems and product lines, and also offers training for the business owners and staff.
Liwani proudly showed economic opportunities MEC Alan Winde and Pick n Pay management around her revamped store, the only retail supermarket in the area.
Her father, Vic Radebe, started Ndwamba Market, named after his great-grandfather's clan, in the 1960s.
'I learnt everything I possibly could'
Liwani has been at the helm for the past 23 years after her father was shot dead in the driveway of his home in 1995 after returning from a long day at the store. No one has ever been arrested for his murder.
"I was 22 when I had to take over the shop. I was in my second year of my diploma in retail business management when I had to drop out and start running things. I never finished my studies, but after working here since my childhood, I learnt everything I possibly could in the university of my father," she joked.
"I grew up in this shop. Weekends, school holidays, any free time I had would be spent right here. There was no time for friends or going to the beach – this used to be my other home. So when my father died, it was easy for me to take over. My dad was strict and he trained me well. I had to continue his business journey."
Radebe worked hard to make his tiny "supermarket" the go-to place for locals, Liwani said, and he put in long hours to make his business a success.
"I was his little helper – a packer and a cashier, all in one. He taught me all I know, even though at times I really hated this place," she admitted.
But she grew to love the store, working from early in the morning until late at night to maintain her father's standards and vision for his business.
Last year, Ndwamba Market was selected to be part of the upgrading project, which saw the store expand to three times its initial size.
While still retaining its original name, the shop resembles a mini Pick n Pay, and Liwani is able to make use of all the services offered to its franchisees.
When she stepped into her father's shoes in 1995, seven people helped her keep his business going. Since the expansion, she boasts a staff complement of 21 locals.
"Things are hectic, but I am grateful. My children – aged 12, 14 and 18 – are big enough so I can invest most of my time in my business. This project happened at the right time for me," she said.
Her husband, Zongizile Liwani, is a co-owner of the store, and Liwani's brother Ashar Mapuma manages its operations.
"But this is my baby and I know this shop like the back of my hand. I know how much stock we have, where to find it – I know everything about what goes on in here. I am hands on."
She is also taking part in several courses offered by Pick n Pay, and enjoys strengthening her business acumen while studying their systems.
"Since reopening, our profits have tripled. But I don't spend it because I am investing it back into the business. I am saving and working to grow my store and hopefully one day my children will also be part of running things."
Liwani greets many of her customers by name, as many have been shopping at Ndwamba Market since her father was in charge.
Olga Mpayipheli, 59, remembers buying her staples from Mapuma, who she described as a "good man".
"This was a small shop, but the price was right and you could find most of what you needed in those racks," Mpayipheli said while waiting to pay for a loaf of bread.
"Now that it's a proper supermarket, things are even better. I don't have to travel to other areas to do the monthly shopping. The specials are great and we can buy things we couldn't find in this area before."
'I wish he could see me now'
Mpayipheli's daughter, Lindiwe, nods in agreement.
"I like that this is a black businesswoman's shop. I am proud to support her."
Liwani said she was sure her father would be satisfied with how much his humble store has grown.
"I remember he used to say the problem with teaching girls about being the boss is that they will one day get married, have children and become housewives, forgetting about the business. I would look at him and think: 'Me? I will do it all'.
"I wish he was still alive and could see me now. I am still doing everything he taught me."