Bonang Mohale: We cannot thank you enough, Morena Maponya

richard maponya
richard maponya

"Assist one another, patronise talent in one another, prefer one another's business, shops.... just for the reason that it is better to elevate kindred and countrymen before all others". 

     Rev. Tiyo Soga (1829 - 1871) the first ordained African Priest - earned his Theology degree in Scotland & married Janet 'Nosantso' Burnside 


Just in November 2019, a month before your 99th birthday on 24 December, you were still obsessed with establishing an 'Academy for Entrepreneurs'! Such has always been your willingness to share what you have learned and demonstrate through deeds, not just theory, because your whole life was characterised by finding solutions even to our most intractable challenges.

I pay a much earned and most deserved tribute to the father of black business in general and the father of retail in particular. We cannot possibly thank you enough, Morena Maponya, for the many pioneering successes with your late stalwart wife, Mme Marina.

We thank you for demonstrating beyond any shadow of doubt, that:

My pain is my superpower;

That pain is an intrinsic part of purpose;

That meaning is how purpose feels;

That pain is the most real truth, because it determines how people act;

How do I find joy in the face of suffering?

That my void is my energy;

That without a struggle, there can be no progress;

That s/he who has a why to live, can bear almost any how;

That we are a people with great natural endowments, descendants of explorers and sense-makers by nature.

A million thanks for teaching us how "to ride the tiger of apartheid".

We remember fondly your permanent smile when the former president, Rolihlahla N. Mandela, asked you to be the one to drive him around, in your own Mercedes Benz, upon his release from prison.

Thank you for accepting to be the very first president of the National African Federated Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NAFCOC), the oldest (at 55 years) black business organisation, co-founded with other giants, Rev. Bishop Joe Hlongwane, Dr. Sam Motsoenyane, Dr. Archie Nkonyane, who went on to succeed you as presidents, in that order.

Today, Maponya supermarket in Phefeni, Soweto, stands as a monument to your entrepreneurial spirit, and Maponya Mall (at 80 000 square meters) as the biggest of the five malls in Soweto, is a testament of your resilience - having held on to this parcel of land for more than 20 years! On the occasion of NAFCOC’s 50th Anniversary in 2014, in the annals of black business contributions (as aptly captured by professor Kwandile Kondlo in the publication A Legacy of Perseverance) - your personal and collective contributions loom large indeed.

From organising the approximately 400 minibus taxis to ferry the supporters of SWAPO (the South West Africa People’s Organisation) during the 1989 general elections in Namibia; organising, among others, both accommodation and transport for some of our political leaders who were returning to the country from exile in the early 1990s; the origins of black economic empowerment can be traced back to both NAFCOC’s 'Resolution 3, 4, 5, 6' and the BMF’s 'Basotho Hat Formula' as a blueprint for a inclusive economic transformation; the establishment of a fully fledged ministry of Small Business Development, et cetera.

The biggest achievement is how you and the NAFCOC founding feathers - silverbacks - harnessed the collective savings of the individual members - shopkeepers, in a period spanning over 20 years - just to raise a meager R1m to establish the African Bank in 1975! The sale of African Bank in 1995 still stands as a historical error that must surely be corrected by the current generation.

You shall grow old no more; you will walk beside us every day unseen, unheard but always near - still loved, still missed and very dear! Our heartfelt and sincere condolences - not only for the Maponyas' but the nation’s profound loss. For us, resurrection is promised.

Bonang Mohale is Chair of the Bidvest Group Limited. 

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