Cape Town’s roadside chicken sellers

“What I love about this business is that it is outside. I’m not enclosed in a building.”

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Photo of woman picking out a chicken
Mathapelo Setona picks out a chicken for a customer. All photos: Masixole Feni

Mathapelo Setona has been selling chicken at Mfuleni’s taxi rank for a year. She is 18 years old and from Lesotho. She lives with her mum and siblings in a shack. “I start work at 8:30am and finish at 7pm,” she says.

Workers offload crates of chickens along Japhta Masemola Road in Site C, Khayelitsha. The chickens come from a farm that the sellers refer to as “Botha” in Philippi.

Setona works for Ntabiseng Moshoeshoe, who began her chicken business in 2010. Moshoeshoe started with 20 chickens. She says that back then business was slow. But after about three years it began to grow.

Now she sells about 16 to 25 chickens a day. She has just received chickens from a farm in Philippi, from whom she usually orders 100 to 150 birds at a time.

Mathapelo Setona at the chicken stand. This business sells 100 to 150 chickens a day.

But Moshoeshoe’s business was hit hard by the bird flu outbreak in 2017. Many of the farmers where informal chicken traders ordered their chickens from, closed down. Moshoeshoe also says chicken traders are given a hard time by city officials if they don’t have permits to trade.

Moshoeshoe buys chickens for R50 to R60. She charges R70 to R100 depending on the quality and size of the chicken.

Despite business being a bit slow, she is satisfied with it. It support her family of five.

“What I love about this business is that it is outside,” says Setona. “I’m not enclosed working in a building.”

People in Site C, Khayelitsha pluck the chickens for Moshoeshoe’s business.

When they receive the chickens they take them to people in Site C, Khayelitsha. They pluck and clean the chickens, and in exchange they keep the heads and feet. These are then resold at street corners in the township.

A bird sits on Mathapelo Setona’s arm.

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