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South African business man Richard Maponya

Business Icon Richard Maponya Dies At 99

South African businessman Richard Maponya has died at the age of 99.

Maponya died in the early hours of Monday morning following a short illness.

The man dubbed as the father of black retail in South Africa developed the over R400 million Maponya Mall in Soweto.

Family spokesperson Mandla Sibeko said: “Dr Maponya passed away this morning after a short illness and it’s been a shock to the family. He was the kind of man who was working every day and he was still working at 99-years-old.”

Although he trained to be a teacher, Maponya started working at a clothing company in the 1950s selling garments to miners and rural people. In 1956, he was granted a licence to sell foodstuffs in Soweto after being denied a licence to open a retail store.

He set up the Dube Hygienic Dairy in Soweto and in later years also set up a butchery, a restaurant and two grocery stores in the area. He also had a petrol filling station and operated a General Motors dealership before the US company disinvested in South Africa in 1987. He was also involved in bus transport and had a BMW dealership in Soweto.

Maponya also put together a group of black businesspeople, forming the Kilimanjaro Holdings (Pty) Ltd, and put in a successful bid for a bottling plant in East London when Coca-Cola disinvested from South Africa.

He later ventured into property and was able to fulfil his dream of building a shopping mall in Soweto – Maponya Mall.

In 2007, he was awarded the Order of the Baobab in Silver for his “excellent contribution to entrepreneurship despite oppressive apartheid conditions, and for serving as an inspiration to disadvantaged South Africans striving for business success”.

Maponya was also a trustee of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund and was the founder and first president of the National African Federated Chamber of Commerce.