Call it a smiley or skopo: A township delicacy that's hard to bleat

07 November 2017 - 06:53 By Bafana Nzimande
HEAD START Mampine Leoka, right, and Puleng Matsipe sell 'skopo' at night on the side of the road in Soweto as a means of survival.
HEAD START Mampine Leoka, right, and Puleng Matsipe sell 'skopo' at night on the side of the road in Soweto as a means of survival.
Image: Bafana Nzimande

When darkness settles, about 20 women line up along a busy street in Soweto to provide for their families, armed with a cooked delicacy loved by revellers - goat's head.

Puleng Matsipe, a mother of four, has been in the business for more than a decade. The money she earns from the business is her family's only income.

She sells cooked goats' heads, popularly known as "smiley" or "skopo". This is a favourite township delicacy, especially for over-indulgers seeking a hangover "cure".

"I've been selling skopo for more than 10 years. I was a domestic worker, but I lost my job around the year 2000. I couldn't find another job, until I saw a group of ladies selling skopo, and I joined them so I could take my children to school," said Matsipe.

The women operate on Manotshe Street in Mapetla from 6pm until the following morning.

Their earnings are most lucrative in the evenings from Wednesday to Sunday - thanks to nearby taverns and pubs. They are frequented by revellers who, after a few drinks, stop at Matsipe's stall to purchase skopo flavoured with chilli powder and spices.

The head is split in two. Each half costs R30 and Motsipe makes close to R500 on a good weekend.

But the preparation process is laborious. The women first have to burn and remove fur from the heads. Once cooked, the heads are placed in a big pot or bucket that will be put in a trolley and dragged to the busy route frequented by revellers at night.

"We don't sleep a lot. We spend most of the time on the pavement. During the day we have to get stock from town, then cut items into portions before cooking it for hours," said Mampine Leoka of Tladi.

Their business is facing stiff competition from pavement traders offering braaied chicken feet, which cost less.

"Some ladies have decided to sell both skopo and chicken feet to remain in business. Skopo has more profit than chicken feet. It is wise to have them both, because you can never predict what customers want," said Tapile Mofokeng, another single mother who makes a living on the side of the road.

Chicken feet cost a mere R1, but many customers, like Hosea Mothei of Tshiawelo, still prefer skopo.

Mothei said he enjoyed eating the goat's brain, tongue and eyes.

"The brain is my favourite part. It tastes like cheese. I usually have it with pap, then down it with a cold beer. I love it," said Mothei.

He believes that skopo will be offered for sale by big companies in the near future.

"Today we have companies selling chisa nyama- so I won't be surprised if top restaurants put skopo in their menu," he said.