Richard Maponya honoured at New Brighton memorial service
Legendary businessman Richard Maponya was honoured in a series of moving tributes at a memorial service at the Nangoza Jebe Hall in New Brighton on Monday evening.
Considered to be the grandfather of black business, Maponya, whose enterprises prospered despite apartheid laws designed to curb black-owned companies, was remembered as a driving force for change and a mentor for countless people.
He died aged 99 on January 6 after a short illness.
Speaking at the memorial, attended by about 40 residents and business executives, Nelson Mandela Bay speaker Buyelwa Mafaya said she was honoured to be chosen as a speaker at the event.
“Today we are here to celebrate the life of a man who I call grandfather.
“I am very proud [to say] I am the product of what [Maponya] preached when he stood up and said ‘I will not stand back’,” Mafaya said.
She said Maponya was a trailblazer who navigated fearlessly through extremely trying times.
“We must reflect on what [Maponya] left us. What [he] did then was not easy but he did it anyway.
“Let us not forget where he is coming from,” Mafaya said.
Born in Thlabine, Limpopo, Maponya was a trained teacher and by the 1950s had started his own businesses in Soweto, including several general stores.
In 1964, Maponya was one of the founding members and the first president of the National African Federated Chamber of Commerce (Nafcoc), which sought to unite black businesses during apartheid.
Maponya and his wife, Marina, went on to build a business empire that included retail and property development businesses and vehicle dealerships.
Perhaps his crowning achievement — apart from inspiring legions of black business people — was the establishment of the Maponya Mall in Soweto in 2007.
Nafcoc stalwart Monwabisi Mkhasi said on Monday he regarded Maponya was one of the greatest men who ever lived.
Mkhasi said there was much people could take from Maponya and what he had done for black business and for the nation.
“Other people fear not realising their dreams, but not [Maponya]," he said.
“Failing doesn’t mean you stop.
“[Maponya] had done everything in the world a businessman could do.
“[He] did a wonderful job.”
Algoa Bus Company CEO Sicelo Duze said Maponya embodied what he believed was the way forward for anyone wanting to get into business or better themselves.
“There is nothing more powerful than a changed mind [and] the emphasis is now on the young people ... I wish we had more young people exposed to this,” Duze said.
Deputy chair of chairs in the Eastern Cape Tony Duba, who was the keynote speaker, said he was honoured because he was in the presence of his mentors.
“I am here because I have learnt one thing — how they survived.
“[Maponya] knew there was a bigger struggle to be waged outside of business.
“One thing I learnt from [Maponya] to do is not to look inward but to look outside,” Duba said.
President Cyril Ramaphosa declared a special official funeral would be given to Maponya on Tuesday in Johannesburg.