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Zanzibar cuisine under lockdown

19th Jun 2020
Zanzibar cuisine under lockdown

Ahmed Rajab

Abdulaziz Maxmud has been running a small but thriving catering business for the past four years. His speciality is Swahili cuisine, a fusion of African, Arab, Persian and Indian fare.

He is much in demand among his fellow east Africans as he is among the handful of caterers of choice for their wedding ceremonies, parties as well as post-funeral sadaqa.

Maxmud also supplies biriyani, on a daily basis, to a popular food outlet “Zanzibar Hot Style”, which operate out of Barking Market, in east London. In addition to Maxmud’s sumptuous biriyani, the “Zanzibar Hot Style” is also famous for its takeaway pilau, mandazi, chapati, samosas, mishkakis.
Because of the nature of his enterprise Maxmud’s overheads are minimal. He cooks in his family kitchen where he can summon the assisting hands of his wife and children.

Maxmud’s business has been hard hit by the Coronavirus pandemic. The lockdown has forced him to cease his food delivery service. A ban on social gatherings has meant no wedding receptions, no parties and no funeral services.

Photo: Abdulaziz Maxmud owner of a thriving catering business

During the holy month of Ramadan, Maxmud had a tender to supply daily iftar (breaking of fast) to a north London mosque for the entire month. As mosques remain closed as a result of the pandemic that tender was understandably rescinded.

“Zanzibar Hot Style” had also pulled down its shutters because of the Corona pandemic, leaving Maxmud bereft of his clientele.

With the lockdown, life suddenly became bleak for Maxmud who was at his wits end until his accountant, originally from Algeria, alerted him to the Government’s Self-Employment Income Support Scheme. Under the scheme, all self-employed people who are adversely affected by the Coronavirus (Covid-19) can claim a grant.

“My accountant assisted me hugely,” says Maxmud. “I first checked if I was eligible to apply for the grant and when I saw that I was I immediately applied, It did not take long after I applied for the grant to be approved and to have the funds deposited in my bank account. Everything went smoothly. There were no hiccups.”

The scheme allows those eligible to claim a taxable grant of 80 per cent of one’s average monthly trading profits, paid out in a single instalment covering three months, and capped at £7,500 altogether. This is a temporary scheme, but it may be extended.

“The grant is a great help to me. Although it is subject to Income Tax and self-employed National Insurance, I do not have to repay it. I’m confident that once the lockdown is ended my business will pick up again and that grant would have contributed to it,” says Maxmud.


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