the birth of a cash cow

MASTERPIECE: The recently refurbished Orlando Stadium has been given local entrepreneurs hope of making more money during soccer games.  Cicra 2008. Pic. Louise Macauliffe. © Sowetan.
MASTERPIECE: The recently refurbished Orlando Stadium has been given local entrepreneurs hope of making more money during soccer games. Cicra 2008. Pic. Louise Macauliffe. © Sowetan.

Don Makatile

Parking! Parking! Parking!

For the people of Orlando, Soweto, who have chanted many slogans from the days of Sofasonke Mpanza to the student uprisings in 1976, this is a new battle cry.

This they mouth not in pursuit of a lofty civic or political ideal but to make money - R20 a time.

With the reopening of Orlando Stadium, once punted as the Mecca of soccer in the country, residents in close proximity to the famed arena are now making a killing parking cars coming here for the games.

On normal days Peter Mamanyane ekes out a living selling beer to a close coterie of customers. But since the reopening of the stadium - at a staggering cost of R280 million - he now makes his money selling parking space to soccer fans coming here to relive memories of the past.

In quick succession, Soweto's Big Three came to play here. First it was Orlando Pirates, playing Thanda Royal Zulu; then Moroka Swallows hosted Platinum Stars; which was followed by a game between Kaizer Chiefs and Golden Arrows.

On each occasion, Mamanyane has been able to make about R300, a windfall for a small-time bootlegger whose life is a daily struggle to make ends meet.

"This is a chance to make money," says Mamanyane. "I can park about 11 cars in here, then four more outside."

The money will come in handy for much-needed groceries, he says, and just money "to take care of myself".

In the milieu leading up to the Chiefs-Arrows game, Mamanyane and his younger brothers were running up and down, touting vehicles to come park in their cavernous yard, at R25 a unit.

In this neighbourhood, anyone with parking space in their yard, even women who would ordinarily be minding the pots, have sharpened their vocal chords well enough to be able to shout: Parking! Safe parking!

Refilwe Tunzi's mother, Nandi, is incapacitated. In the playing days of Kaizer Motaung, Jomo Sono, Computer Lamola, Ace Ntsoelengoe, Professor Ngubane, Hero Mogale and Didi Khuse, Nandi's shebeen was the preferred hangout, the place to be seen.

Today the place is run by Refilwe, who sells beer at R8 a quart. "The reopening of the stadium has been good to us," says Refilwe, suckling her child.

While her mother made money hosting the creme de la creme of the soccer world at the time, Refilwe thinks there's money to be made putting the yard to good use.

The yard can swallow 17 cars!

The women (and men) who sell plates of food outside the stadium still pitch their stalls outside the venue but those like Ruby, himself an ex-soccer star, make a living selling a standard fare of liver, pap and salad - for R15.

His nephew Lerato Makgale was all smiles, a sign that with the games beginning, they'd be smiling all the way to the bank.

For the people of Orlando, the rebirth of the Soccer Mecca has been like the revival of a cash cow. Everyone has ideas about how to make an extra cent.

Nandi Mayathula-Khoza, at one point the mayor of the sprawling township, was quoted speaking for the city fathers in Johannesburg: "This stadium will be a reference point for all our tourists and soccer lovers for 2010."

She said in the same report that "the facility is the biggest and the most sophisticated stadium in the area".

And this means serious money for businessmen like Joe Nkosi, who owns Kayalethu Restaurant. The posh eatery in Mpane Street is targeted by the so-called Black Diamonds.

Nkosi is excited about the business prospects linked to the new stadium. "I have plans to extend my lounge," he says.

The proposed addition will house VIPs, he says: "This is for people who will want to grab a bite before going to the game."

At present, Kayalethu can comfortably sit about 250 guests.

"We offer a whole range of meals here, from African cuisine to a buffet of delectable variety," says Nkosi.

The reopening means one thing for him - more money. He uses optimism-fuelled words like "definitely" and "big time" to refer to his chances to score big.

A lot of good, in its stars, has come out of Orlando Stadium's pitch.

Another success story is about to unfold - and it may not necessarily take place on the field of play.