‘Trailblazer’ Richard Maponya Passes Away at Age 99

President Cyril Ramaphosa has expressed his condolences to the family of esteemed business leader Dr Richard Maponya, following his passing in the early hours of Monday.

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Widely respected as the doyen of black business, Dr Maponya passed away in Johannesburg just a few days after his 99th birthday.

“We have lost a pioneer, a trailblazer and a man of extraordinary fortitude who paved the way for the racial transformation of the South African economy.

“Dr Maponya’s life is a testament to resilience, determination and the power of vision: namely to see black business grow to assume its full role as the key participant and driver of our economy,” said President Ramaphosa.

Maponya’s business career spanned over half a century, and began in the retail sector in the 1950s when he and his wife Marina opened a milk distribution company in Soweto. Together they expanded their business empire to include interests in retail, automotive, filling stations and property development.

“He was of that rare breed of entrepreneurs who would not be held back or become disheartened by difficult operating conditions, in fact having obstacles put in his path drove him even further to succeed,” said the President.

Maponya was a founding member of the National African Federated Chamber of Commerce (NAFCOC) and chairman of the African Chamber of Commerce.

He actively sought to capacitate black businesses and lent his support to entrepreneurship ventures, particularly in Soweto.

The President said Maponya’s success was the combination of natural business acumen and sheer hard work – encouraging countless black businessmen and businesswomen to take up opportunities even in the face of difficulties.

In this process he set powerful examples in tenacity, inspiration and innovation not just to black entrepreneurs but to business persons from all parts of South African society, as well as to continental compatriots with whom he developed close partnerships and networks.

“He understood that to get to the top, one has to begin at the very bottom. He began his career as a stock taker, and today, over 50 years later, the Maponya Mall in Soweto stands as a towering symbol of perseverance and achievement,” the President added.

The Maponya name was described by the President as a veritable institution in public life, standing for excellence and inspiring generations of South Africans.

“Dr Maponya embodied sustainability and corporate social responsibility and investment well before these concepts were academically defined. He was a patriot who believed in the power of building businesses that build communities.

“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,” said the President.

The DA’s national spokesperson said in a statement that the DA is “deeply saddened” by Dr Maponya’s passing.

“Dr Maponya was a pioneer in the business community whose visionary leadership and business acumen saw him rise from a small business owner under difficult circumstances during apartheid into the mogul that he was until his death.

“There is no doubt that his success inspired generations of entrepreneurs to pursue and ultimately excel in business.

“Dr Maponya was more than a businessman. He used his wealth to pursue his strong passion to make a difference in the lives of less fortunate communities by uplifting emerging entrepreneurs and investing in community development programmes.

“We extend our heartfelt condolences to his family and friends. His death is a great loss to all of us and we will uplift his memory. May his soul rest in peace.”

Sources: SAnews.gov.za and DA