Hero’s send-off for iconic ty­coon Maponya

Pres­i­dent says the promi­nent busi­ness­man fought for black eco­nomic free­dom


LATE busi­ness­man Richard Maponya has been hailed as an iconic en­trepreneur who fought off the re­pres­sive anti-black busi­ness apartheid laws to suc­cess­fully lead the charge to build strong township economies.

Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa also de­scribed Maponya, af­fec­tion­ately re­ferred to as the grand­fa­ther of black re­tail, as one of South Africa’s finest and most re­silient peo­ple whose life was well lived and thus had to be cel­e­brated.

Ramaphosa de­liv­ered the eu­logy at Maponya’s funeral ser­vice held at the Univer­sity of Jo­han­nes­burg in Soweto yes­ter­day. Maponya died last week – a few days af­ter his 99th birth­day.

Thou­sands of mourn­ers, in­clud­ing for­mer pres­i­dents Thabo Mbeki and Kgalema Mot­lanthe, at­tended the funeral, with speak­ers tak­ing turns to re­flect on how Maponya with­stood apartheid re­pres­sion and built a busi­ness em­pire that in­spired and ig­nited the en­tre­pre­neur­ial spirit of many black South Africans.

Ramaphosa said Maponya had been an eth­i­cal en­trepreneur who stood for self-up­lift­ment and self-re­liance.

“To­day we bid a sad farewell to a man of ex­tra­or­di­nary re­silience who rose above his cir­cum­stances and per­se­vered un­til he reached the pin­na­cle of suc­cess, and yet he re­mained hum­ble, mag­nan­i­mous and gen­er­ous.

“South Africa has in­deed lost a visionary busi­ness leader who con­tin­ued with his tal­ent right up to his last days. We have lost the most out­stand­ing en­trepreneur,” he said.

Ramaphosa the busi­ness ty­coon had been a sol­dier for the eco­nomic eman­ci­pa­tion of black South Africans.

“He was a fighter for the lib­er­a­tion of black South Africans from the shack­les of poverty, from the man­a­cles of marginal­i­sa­tion and the chains of eco­nomic ex­clu­sion. He was a busi­ness per­son, yes, but he was driven by the con­vic­tion that South Africa would never be truly free un­til the fruits of pros­per­ity were shared by all its peo­ple,” he said.

A found­ing chair­per­son of the Na­tional African Fed­er­ated Cham­ber of Com­merce (Naf­coc), Maponya leaves be­hind a re­tail em­pire with in­ter­ests in var­i­ous sec­tors, in­clud­ing prop­erty and con­struc­tion.

“One of the best things that he did was to give courage to many black busi­ness­peo­ple. De­spite his stature as the doyen of black busi­ness, he was al­ways there with a hand to pull up those who stood be­low.

“Hav­ing scaled the heights, he wanted to see oth­ers along­side him on the ros­trum of suc­cess,” Ramaphosa said.

Me­dia en­trepreneur Feli­cia Mabuza-Sut­tle said she was one of the busi­ness peo­ple who grew un­der Maponya’s wing.

“My first break to go abroad was fa­cil­i­tated by the Maponyas. Get close to peo­ple that you ad­mire, young peo­ple. Find out what drives them and how they got to where they are,” she said.

Busi­ness­woman Wendy Luhabe, also Maponya’s mentee, said he had gen­er­ously im­parted his wis­dom to young and old through­out his life.

“He en­cour­aged many young peo­ple, young women in par­tic­u­lar, who as­pired to be­come en­trepreneur­s.

“I know of a story of a 19-year-old who wrote to him 10 years ago when he was 89, re­quest­ing a meet­ing with him. She tells me, where most peo­ple would have asked their of­fice to ar­range the meet­ing, he called her to sched­ule the meet­ing,” Luhabe said.

She said Maponya and his late wife, Ma­rina, had been gen­er­ous with their time and wis­dom.

A friend and fel­low en­trepreneur, Sam Mot­suenyane, said de­spite old age, he had not ex­pected Maponya to de­part as they were still dis­cussing the role of black peo­ple in busi­ness and their par­tic­i­pa­tion in grow­ing the coun­try’s econ­omy.

| NOKUTHULA MBATHA African News Agency (ANA)

SAPS of­fi­cers carry the cof­fin of busi­ness ty­coon Richard Maponya at his of­fi­cial funeral ser­vice at the Univer­sity of Jo­han­nes­burg’s Soweto cam­pus yes­ter­day. Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa ad­dressed mourn­ers dur­ing the ser­vice

| Nokuthula Mbatha African News Agency (ANA)

FOR­MER pres­i­dents Thabo Mbeki and Kgalema Mot­lanthe also at­tended the funeral ser­vice.

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