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Milile’s Tavern

by Philip Wilson / 30.01.2014

Outside Milile’s Tavern, a drunk man is screaming at the top of his lungs: “Pirates!”

It’s derby day: Orlando Pirates versus the mighty Kaizer Chiefs. The Soweto derby fever is felt all the way in Ekuphumleni, the location at Kenton-on-Sea in the Eastern Cape. It’s 2:30pm and the match starts at 3:00, and suddenly it’s okay to be drunk while the sun still shines.

Milile’s Tavern is tucked away, hidden behind a long driveway. It’s only noticeable because of the black bins filled with empty wine boxes on the edge of the road. Once past the driveway, Black Label signage gives the place away.

Caroline Mbunge, who runs the tavern stands at a black metal grate. She’s pouring box wine into an empty Sparletta bottle for a patron. The game starts in 30 minutes and not a television is in sight, but no one seems remotely concerned, despite many of the patrons in the tavern being clad in supporters’ regalia.

At three minutes to kick off, three men walk into the room carrying an old TV and bunny ears. Caroline reaches through the metal grate, grabbing the power cord and plugging it in. Precisely four minutes after kick off, the game is being broadcast live to Milile’s Tavern. The atmosphere is festive and large paint tins (and other makeshift seating arrangements) are brought into the tavern as the more serious supporters clamber to be closer to the fuzzy television set.


The FNB Stadium is tense. The tavern is relaxed. On field the game is physical. At Milile’s the atmosphere is jovial and celebratory. It appears that even the most ardent supporters are more concerned with having a good time than the final result of the match.

Sitting on a bench, a mother chants for the Kaizer Chiefs while her young daughter sips Twizza cold drink from a plastic bottle that once contained cheap wine. Meanwhile, Caroline’s youngest child, Isizile, falls asleep in her arms despite the ruckus in the tavern. She slips him off her shoulders and puts him on a couch with some blankets to sleep.

The tavern is what supports Caroline and her family, but it is also a place that she tries to distance her family from. It’s a difficult task, considering that the family home is physically attached to the various passageways that connect the store room and bar area to the rest of the tavern.


Screams from the supporters suggest that a goal has been scored. Some look disheartened, others overjoyed. The Buccaneers have taken a one-nil lead. Chants for the Orlando Pirates dull the commentary on the television as supporters head towards the metal grate for a drink in celebration.

It is not a day for sadness. Kaizer Chiefs supporters join in, and before long the soccer commentary is replaced with Kwaito beats.


All images ©Phil Wilson

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