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Biography of Richard John MAPONYA

South Africa > Business : Richard John MAPONYA

Richard John MAPONYA
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Born on 24/12/1926 (format : day/month/year)

Biography :

Richard John Maponya (b. December 24,1926), is a one of the richest businessmen in South Africa. He is a highly successful self-made black businessmen and didn't benefit from Black Economic Empowerment  consortia which deter them from taking risks on their own.

Richard Maponya, who started his professional life as a teacher, is regarded in many circles as the father of black retail in SA. He established a thriving business empire in the 1950s when apartheid made it almost impossible for black people to enter the formal business arena.

He is one of the founding members of the National African Federated Chamber of Commerce (Nafcoc) and was also founder and chairman of the Johannesburg African Chamber of Commerce, a position he held for 14 years. In the past he also served on the board of the former Lebowa Development Corporation. He was actively involved in the politics of the former Bantustan, Lebowa, where he contributed in the establishment of the Lebowa People's Party.

The politician in Maponya saw him serving in the Urban Bantu Council - a predecessor of the apartheid-era Soweto City Council - between 1965 and 1976. In this council he also served as the chairman of the trade & transport committee.

Maponya qualified as a teacher at Kagiso Training College and began working as an administration clerk. He then decided to venture into his own business, starting with small, township-style grocery shops. This came after he struggled with the authorities to gain a general dealer's licence. He eventually got it with the help of the law firm run by Oliver Tambo and Nelson Mandela.

In 1952 he and his wife opened Soweto's first dairy products shop, which ultimately employed more than 100 people, including bicycle delivery men. He left that business when established players discovered Soweto.

He then ventured into bigger schemes, including a motor dealership, petrol stations, a bus service and a funeral parlour. He brought a motor vehicle sales franchise business into Soweto called Mountain Motor and has operated a BMW franchise. When the initial Coca-Cola SA operation disinvested from SA, Maponya saw an opportunity. He formed part of a group of businessmen called Kilimanjaro Holdings, which acquired Coca-Cola's bottling plant in East London.

Maponya made a 50/50 joint venture with property group Zenprop to develop the first regional shopping centre in Soweto, to be called Maponya Mall. In September 2007 his 26 years old dream came true, the Maponya Mall has opened in Soweto, one of the biggest malls in South Africa. Former President Nelson Mandela opened the shopping center.


I am not impressed with the exchange and buying of shares that do not create jobs. I would like to see people start up something and create hundreds of jobs.

“That for me would be real empowerment -- enabling large numbers of people to put bread on the table and develop skills.”

“I cannot retire. Retire and do what? I believe that for as long as I am alive and healthy, I must do whatever I can to benefit my community. I will work until the day they sing hamba kahle. I will die with my boots on.”

"Nelson and the others, they sacrificed themselves, their jobs and their lives for our freedom. My contribution was small. I wasn't locked up. But I was undermining the regime. I was exposing them. I was making the statement that, given a chance, a black man could become as successful as a white man."

Last update : 06/29/2008

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