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