Tributes pour in for Dr Maponya, ‘Grandfather of black business’

Businessperson Dr Richard Maponya at his home in Hyde Park. Picture: Muntu Vilakazi/City Press/File
Businessperson Dr Richard Maponya at his home in Hyde Park. Picture: Muntu Vilakazi/City Press/File

Condolences have continued to stream in following the news of the death of Soweto businessperson Dr Richard Maponya.

Maponya died in the early hours of Monday morning following a short illness, his family confirmed. He was 99 years old.

In a statement issued by the Presidency, President Cyril Ramaphosa said Maponya was “a pioneer, a trailblazer and a man of extraordinary fortitude, who paved the way for the racial transformation of the South African economy”.

“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,” he said.

Maponya had recently celebrated his 99th birthday in December and Ramaphosa, in a tweet at the time, had urged young South Africans to learn from the business giant.

“Let me take this opportunity to wish Ntate Richard Maponya a happy 99th birthday,” the tweet read.

“I urge young South Africans to research the life story of this great legend, and draw lessons from how he overcame adversity to become one of the greatest pioneers and success stories of our time,” Ramaphosa continued.

Several political parties and institutions have sent their condolences to his family and friends.

The EFF on Monday described Maponya as an icon who “managed to build wealth despite the restrictions, hatred and oppression of the murderous apartheid regime.”

“Maponya was not an entrepreneur focused on government tenders, or even relying on the bribing of politicians to make money. Long before South Africa had a black government, he was already a brilliant property developer. This makes him not only formidable, but a businessman of integrity,” EFF national spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlovu said.

Gauteng Premier David Makhura also expressed sadness at the passing of the “Grandfather of Black Business in South Africa.”

“He was the epitome of black business excellence and resilience, as well as a great inspiration to a generation of young black entrepreneurs. May his legacy live forever,” Makhura said.

The University of Johannesburg (UJ) said it was grateful to have had the privilege of partnering with Maponya in 2014 through a series of annual think tanks, the Dr Richard Maponya Lecture and the annual Dr Richard Maponya Soweto Conference.

“His selfless dedication to revitalising township entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship has resulted in many thriving youth startups in and around Soweto, and across the greater Johannesburg,” UJ said in a statement.

The EFF also called for the establishment of a state-owned bank to honour Maponya’s memory.

“To truly honour Maponya is to believe that African people can be enterprising, innovative and creative; that there are many like him in our country and continent, but lack the financial investment and support for their businesses. This is truly the key solution to dealing with the massive African unemployment; a bank that believes in them,” the EFF said.

Acting chief executive of Business Unity SA, Cas Coovadia, said Maponya set a sterling ethical and moral example for businesspeople in South Africa.

“Dr Maponya started from humble beginnings during the apartheid period and fought against apartheid legislation to establish and grow his businesses. He also played a sterling role in the community where he lived all his life. He was a social entrepreneur well before the term was coined and ploughed back into his community as he became successful. He set an example for businesspeople and conducted his business ethically and morally”.


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July 2020

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