Zille Opens South Africa’s First Deaf-Run Coffee Shop

With a deaf younger sister, it was especially meaningful for Western Cape Premier Helen Zille to open South Africa’s first deaf-run coffee shop on Tuesday.

After eyeing a tower of macaroons on the counter of “i love coffee” in Claremont, housed in a gym, it was not long before Zille had learnt how to ask for a cappuccino in sign language.

“So when you’ve eaten all the pastries, you can work it off here,” she said to laughs.

The shop’s founder, Gary Hopkins, said he wanted to break down communication barriers between the hearing and deaf communities.

It was not about sympathy and pity. The shop was a celebration of entrepreneurship and big ideas.

He was grateful and overwhelmed by interest in their shop from around the world.

A bright red sign explains how to order. The sign states: “Look us in the eyes, speak normally (shouting doesn’t help), or point to the menu or item, write down if you want, or ask us to teach you the sign.”

Zille said they never learnt sign language at home because her sister, 63, was taught speech and lip-reading to communicate.

She demonstrated her sign language name – a two-finger stroke to her cheek and a “z” in the air for her initials.

Mischievously, she then moved her hand over an imaginary bump on her head to show President Jacob Zuma’s call sign.

Zille offered the pavilion of her official residence, Leeuwenhof, as a trading space for the shop in the future.

“I have lots of very old furniture in Leeuwenhof but nothing is as old as my coffee machine. I think it came with Jan van Riebeeck.”

Zille said she would visit the shop one Saturday every month so the public could speak with her over coffee and cake.

Most people applauded, not by clapping their hands but by twisting them back and forth in the air a few times.

With training under their belt, baristas Thembelihle Qezu, Shanlee Arendse and Kaye-Lynne Goddard, effortlessly served espressos and cappuccinos to the crowd.

Through an interpreter, Qezu thanked everyone for travelling so far to taste their coffee.

“Before, I knew nothing about delicious coffee. Now I am making it,” he said.

Helen Zille opens SA’s first deaf-run coffee shop, and takes a selfie so everyone knows. (Jenna Etheridge, News24)

The baristas. (Jenna Etheridge, News24)

Take a look at what the coffee shop looks like:


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