Prominent South African business mogul and property developer Richard Maponya has died after a brief illness. He passed on in the early hours of Monday.
In a brief statement, family representative Mandla Sibeko said: “Dr. Maponya passed away this morning after a short illness and it’s been a shock to the family. He was the kind of man who worked every day and he was still working at 99-years-old.”
Maponya rose from the rural areas of Limpopo to become one of the most esteemed self-made entrepreneurs in South Africa. Despite the deprivations of apartheid and laws forbidding entrepreneurial spirit among black people, he defied odds to realise a dream that refused to die.
Popularly known as the father of black retail in South Africa, Maponya’s career highpoints include being a trustee of The Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund, and first president of the National African Federated Chamber of Commerce.
Although he trained as a Teacher, he started working at a clothing company in the 1950s selling clothes to travellers, traders, and labourers. He was granted a licence to start a grocery store in Soweto in 1956 after being refused a licence to start a sales outlet.
His business spiralled into various enterprises including liquor stores, diary delivery company, car dealership, supermarkets and filling stations. He was also involved in bus transportation and had a BMW franchise in Soweto.
He put together a formidable team to start the Kilimanjaro Holdings (Pty) and had a successful bid for a bottling plant in East London when Coca-Cola pulled out of South Africa.
The most visible symbol of his legacy is the imposing Maponya Mall in Soweto which was opened thirteen years ago.
Maponya was the founding president of the National African Federated Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Nafcoc), which was started in 1964 to serve the interests of small businesses.
President Cyril Ramaphosa recently acknowledged him as “one of the greatest pioneers and success stories of our time.”
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