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KHANYA MNCWABE hopes to contribute to job creation through alcohol brand, Matawi

Nokukhanya ‘Khanya’ Mncwabe, the co-founder of emerging alcohol brand Matawi, which means ‘branches‘ in Swahili, abandoned a human rights career spanning over ten years to pursue Matawi full-time.The seasoned professional shares that while her career allowed her to contribute to the development and reform of several human rights frameworks and policies, it was still a far cry from her ultimate desire to change the circumstances of people living in poverty. She shares, “I realised the time for talking had run its course, I needed to pull up my sleeves and get to work!”

Through Matawi, Khanya hopes to contribute to the creation of jobs and other income-generating opportunities, particularly for previously disadvantaged South Africans.


The 100% black woman-owned company was incorporated in 2018 on the heels of the Western Cape’s worst drought in over a century; it’s founders were motivated to create a business contributing to water conservation. A considerable percentage of the Western Cape’s water sustains agriculture, of which the wine and craft spirit market is a sizeable sector, so they sought to identify a less-water intensive form of alcohol which could sustain income-generation and job-creation. They zoned in on mead/alcoholic honey beverages because its production process particularly restricts water-usage. Ultimately, the Matawi range uses only a fraction of the water needed to make wine, beer, vodka, etc.


Matawi positions itself as an environmentally and social impactful business, striving to secure the ancillary benefits of reviving indigenous mead-making heritage, to entrench a sophisticated ‘iqhilika’ brand; promoting responsible production and consumption, and; creating a value chain that facilitates market access – at assured fair prices – to African beekeepers/honey suppliers, and small producers of fruits, herbs, teas and botanicals, to create income-generating and employment opportunities for historically disadvantaged communities (rural women and youth in particular) so as to alleviate entrenched poverty and inequality in South Africa. Hence our tagline: ‘Matawi is great for your palate, and the planet!’


Matawi’s distinctive range is created from natural, raw, Fynbos honey which is fermented into various mead styles.Mead appealed because of its taste versatility, which is conducive to anchoring a diverse product portfolio. According to the brand overview, the all-natural Matawi range relies solely on honey, fruits, teas and botanicals for flavourants, and comprises a braggot (mead, craft beer blend), distilled mead (honey gin), mead liqueur and a soon to be launched mead mixer (a fruit-infused, ready-to-drink mead).


It’s always a welcome sight to see black women and women of colour make strides in an industry that could, until very recent years, be likened to one of the many infamous glass ceilings that cap and paralyse the dreams of many young girls. Khanya acknowledges that she is still making baby steps in this industry, but she has benefited greatly from other black and female pioneers in the sector and she hopes to be able to do the same for others who follow in her footsteps. “Apartheid locked black people out of the economy, so many of us are still playing catch-up in terms of knowledge acquisition, establishing reliable supply chains and incorporating more disenfranchised people in our value chains. I’ve persisted in building Matawi from the ground up, through multiple prohibitions on the sale of alcohol and a challenging economic climate because this venture is far bigger than myself. I wish to build a responsible business, which facilitates pathways out of poverty and provides people with a dignified means of earning a living.”


Matawi products can be found on their online store. You can also find them on Brownsense. Africa, The Cape Town Wine Hub and the Thirsty Scarecrow. If you would like to receive updates on Matawi’s journey, be sure to follow them at @MatawiMead.

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