President Cyril Ramaphosa has paid tribute to legendary Soweto-based entrepreneur Richard Maponya, who passed away on Monday aged 99.
In a statement, Ramaphosa described Maponya as a “pioneer” and the “doyen of black business” in South Africa.
He wrote, “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.”
Maponya’s family announced early on Monday that he had passed away after a short illness. He celebrated his 99th birthday on 24 December, 2019.
He founded the National African Federated Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NAFCOC) at the height of apartheid in 1964 to promote small businesses.
Although Maponya was a qualified teacher, he turned to entrepreneurship early in his life, starting with small grocery stores in Soweto in the 1950s.
His business empire expanded over a period of 50 years beyond retail into property development. The famous Maponya Mall in Soweto is often touted as his signature achievement.
In his statement, Ramaphosa said Maponya sought to inspire and support countless young entrepreneurs through his success story.
He said, “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.
“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.
“The Maponya name is a veritable institution in our public life, standing for excellence and inspiring generations of South Africans.”
Ramaphosa hailed Maponya’s “towering legacy” and called on the business community to help realise Maponya’s dream of a youth entrepreneurship academy.
The late entrepreneur’s family appealed for privacy during this period and said they will announce funeral arrangements in due course.