50 years ago, it was inconceivable that a black man could own a mall, but Maponya did it: Ramaphosa

14 January 2020 - 14:28 By Nonkululeko Njilo
President Cyril Ramaphosa gave a moving eulogy on Tuesday at the funeral of business mogul Richard Maponya, in which he said he would try to realise Maponya's dream of setting up a youth entrepreneurship academy.
President Cyril Ramaphosa gave a moving eulogy on Tuesday at the funeral of business mogul Richard Maponya, in which he said he would try to realise Maponya's dream of setting up a youth entrepreneurship academy.
Image: PresidencyZA

President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Tuesday that he would endeavour to help fulfil the goal of late business mogul Richard Maponya to train young entrepreneurs.

Ramaphosa was delivering the eulogy at the funeral service for Maponya, held at the University of Johannesburg's Soweto campus. He was accompanied by his wife, Dr Tshepo Motsepe. Former presidents Thabo Mbeki and Kgalema Motlanthe were among the dignitaries.

“Today we bid a sad farewell to a man of extraordinary resilience, who rose above his circumstances and persevered until he reached a pinnacle of success, and yet he remained humble,” Ramaphosa told the attendees.  

Maponya succumbed to a short illness last week at the age of  99.

Ramaphosa said Maponya established a number of business during the apartheid era, when it was  almost impossible for black people to do so.  

“Fifty years ago, the very idea that a black man could build and own a shopping mall in a black township, where young black men and women could socialise, eat, buy books and watch movies, would have been dismissed as a fantasy — and yet Richard Maponya did it.”

Maponya Mall opened in Soweto in 2007.

Ramaphosa commended Maponya’s resilience and legacy, which he said would live on.  

The late businessperson and his wife Marina, who passed away in 1992, first opened a milk distribution company in Soweto. Their business empire later expanded to include interests in retail, automotive, filling stations and property development.

Ramaphosa cited some of the obstacles that Maponya had to grapple with, such as the lack of permits and licences and regular raids on businesses by apartheid forces.

Speaking about their last encounter, Ramaphosa said Maponya had a dream of opening a youth entrepreneurship academy.

“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.”

The president urged South Africans to strive to make a difference.

Maponya was buried at Westpark Cemetery in Johannesburg on Tuesday afternoon.


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