Ramaphosa vows to honour Maponya's dream for young entrepreneurs

President Cyril Ramaphosa told mourners at the official state funeral of revered entrepreneur Richard Maponya on Wednesday that he would work to develop a youth entrepreneurship academy in the businessman's honour.

The state funeral took place at the University of Johannesburg's Soweto campus. 

Maponya passed away last week Monday after a short illness. He was 99 years old and is survived by 10 children, 25 grandchildren and 19 great-grandchildren.

Maponya was held in high regard by South Africa's business community for, among other things, building the R650m Maponya Mall in Soweto, and for supporting youth entrepreneurship.

In honour of the late businessman, the national flag has been flown at half-mast since Friday. 

Ramaphosa told mourners on Tuesday that he received many late-night calls from Maponya during which the businessman would share his point of view on pressing issues of the day. He said during the last of these talks Maponya stressed that an issue close to his heart was youth entrepreneurship.

"In my very last engagements with him he urged me to do everything I can to see his greatest dream realised, to set up a youth entrepreneurship academy.

"It is a wish I will endeavour to see fulfilled on his behalf," said the president.

Ramaphosa said one of Maponya's finest qualities was his sense of civic duty and initiative, adding that the businessman was not one to wait for government to solve the challenges he saw in his society.

"For him, resolving our country's challenges wasn't somebody else's problem, or government's problem. It was something that preoccupied him until the very end of his life," Ramaphosa said.

He urged the South African business community to assume its role as as a social partners in South African society, as oppose to spectators and observers.

"In a democratic South Africa, he saw the role of business as that of a partner to government, assisting to resolve the challenges of unemployment, poverty and underdevelopment," Ramaphosa said.

In her address, talk show hostess Felicia Mabuza-Suttle reminisced about how she grew up with the Maponya family and appreciating the doyen of black business as her biggest critic. She told mourners that Maponya is finally reunited with his wife as he had often wanted to be.

"Papa is happy where he is," she said.  

"Papa decided to celebrate his 100th birthday with Marina." 

Among those attending were prominent figures such as the first lady Dr Tshepo Motsepe, former presidents Thabo Mbeki and Kgalema Motlanthe, Inkatha Freedom Party founder Mangosuthu Buthelezi, and public transport minister Fikile Mbalula.

Read Ramaphosa's full eulogy here.

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