10 Things You Maybe Didn’t Know About Richard Maponya

Updated on 25 August 2014

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Richard Maponya

[UPDATE] Widely respected as the doyen of black business, Dr Richard Maponya passed away on Monday 6 January 2020 in Johannesburg just a few days after his 99th birthday.

Maponya was a property developer best known for building a business empire, Soweto’s Maponya Mall, despite the restrictions apartheid imposed on black South Africans back then.

Here are 10 facts about Maponya:

  1. When he was 24, Maponya – a teacher at the time –took a job as a stock taker at a clothing manufacturer. The manager sold Maponya soiled clothing and offcuts, which he then resold in Soweto.
  2. He eventually saved enough capital to open a clothing retailer in Soweto, despite being denied a licence under apartheid laws restricting business ownership for black South Africans. He had even hired the law firm of Mandela and Tambo to help him obtain the licence.
  3. In the early 1950sMaponya and his wife Marina (a cousin of Mandela) established the Dube Hygienic Dairy, which employed boys on bicycles to deliver milk to customers – who didn’t have access to electricity or refrigeration – in Soweto.
  4. In the 1960sMaponya was a founding member and first president of the National African Federated Chamber of Commerce (Nafcoc), and the founder and chairman of the African Chamber of Commerce.
  5. By the 70s, his clothing empire had grown, and he had begun to branch out into other areas: general stores, car dealerships and filling stations. His most recognisable development though has been Soweto’s Maponya Mall.
  6. On 27 September 2007, Nelson Mandela officially opened Maponya Mall, one of the largest shopping centres in the country.
  7. Maponya secured the land on which the mall is situated in 1979, first on a 100-year lease. Then, in 1994, after several attempts, he acquired it outright.
  8. Continuing to grow Soweto’s economy, Maponya also established Maponya Motor City on Klipspruit Valley Road in Orlando East. The development included a Volkswagen and Toyota dealership respectively.
  9. At that time former Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe said the development was “another milestone for Soweto by the Maponya Group as they continue to build sustainable world-class businesses in Soweto”.
  10. Maponya Motor City was the first such business in the south of Johannesburg, and now the Maponya Group’s ventures include property development, horse racing and breeding, retail, automotive sales, filling stations and liquor stores.

This article first appeared on MediaClubSA.


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 (6 January 2020), reported the South African Government News Agency.

“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 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.

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