Prominent South African businessman Richard Maponya, who died aged 99 early on Monday after a short illness, was a pioneer and a man of extraordinary fortitude who paved the way for racial transformation, President Cyril Ramaphosa said.
“We have lost a pioneer, a trailblazer and a man of extraordinary fortitude who paved the way for the racial transformation of the South African economy,” Ramaphosa said in a statement.
“Dr Maponya’s life is a testament to resilience, determination and the power of vision: namely to see black business grow to assume its full role as the key participant and driver of our economy.”
Ramaphosa expressed his condolences to Maponya’s family saying he was widely respected as the “doyen of black business”. Ramaphosa’s office said he passed away just a few days after his 99th birthday.
In a brief statement, the Maponya family spokesman Mandla Sibeko said funeral arrangements would be announced in due course and asked for privacy.
Speaking separately on local radio, Sibeko said Maponya’s death was a shock to the family as he was “the kind of man who was working every day and he was still working at 99-years-old”.
Popularly known as the father of black retail in South Africa, Maponya defied the restrictions of decades-long white apartheid rule to build a business empire, culminating in the opening of the Maponya mall in the sprawling Soweto township in 2007 which boasts more than 200 stores and a cinema complex.
Ramaphosa said Maponya’s business career spanned over half a century and began in the retail sector in the 1950s when he and his wife Marina opened a milk distribution company in Soweto, before they expanded their business to include interests in retail, automotive, filling stations and property development.
“He was of that rare breed of entrepreneurs who would not be held back or become disheartened by difficult operating conditions – in fact, having obstacles put in his path drove him even further to succeed,” Ramaphosa said.
The presidency said that Maponya was a founding member of the National African Federated Chamber of Commerce (NAFCOC) and chairman of the African Chamber of Commerce as he actively sought to “capacitate nascent black businesses and variously lent his support to entrepreneurship ventures, particularly in Soweto”.
Maponya’s success was the combination of natural business acumen and sheer hard work, Ramaphosa said, adding that he encouraged countless black businessmen and businesswomen to take up opportunities even in the face of difficulties. He set powerful examples in tenacity, inspiration and innovation.
“He understood that to get to the top, one has to begin at the very bottom. He began his career as a stock taker, and today, over 50 years later, the Maponya Mall in Soweto stands as a towering symbol of perseverance and achievement. Dr Maponya embodied sustainability and corporate social responsibility and investment well before these concepts were academically defined. He was a patriot who believed in the power of building businesses that build communities,” Ramaphosa said.
“The Maponya name is a veritable institution in our public life, standing for excellence and inspiring generations of South Africans. He has left behind a towering legacy, and I call on businessmen and businesswomen to take up the baton and see fulfilled his long-nurtured dream to open a youth entrepreneurship academy.”
Source: African News Agency