Ntate Richard Maponya was great because he was a rarity. While death is, of course, inevitable, the grief is complete. Photo: Ziphozonke Lushaba/African News Agency (ANA)

JOHANNESBURG – The death, on 6 January 2020, of Ntate Richard Maponya has left a void. 

It has also encouraged deep meditation into the life of a titan, and one who has brought deep influence to a country when it was so sorely needed, and had a lasting impact on so many lives.

He built an empire, despite the oppressive restrictions of apartheid South Africa. He was pushed forward by an insuppressible desire to see Soweto, and all of black South Africa, economically uplifted and empowered. He was driven, always, by service to others – something I believed fuelled him in what was a steep uphill struggle for most of his life.

Ntate was great because he was a rarity. While death is, of course, inevitable, the grief is complete. On a personal level, Richard Maponya was a man I could always rely on. As my mentor, he was engaging, challenging, and wise. 

He was also always honest – not something one often encounters in today’s environment, and a quality, I believe, we are collectively poorer without.

On a business level, he was MyGrowthFund’s patron and chairman of the board – roles he undertook with this characteristic humility, and a dose of gravitas. He believed in what we were doing, and ensured that our principles guided all actions and decisions. 

He pushed for greater, bolder, bigger. And he was not a man one wants to disappoint. He symbolised not only what is possible if you dare to dream, but also what is achievable if you have the courage to follow those dreams … and every single South African, irrespective of background, politics, and race, can learn and prosper from that.

South Africa needs the spirit of Dr Maponya now more than ever. Integrity, grit, humility, honesty, courage, self-determination, and of course, brave dreams. The challenges we are facing politically and economically cannot be overcome without introspection.

We need to stop waiting for saviours, and look to ourselves to set a better course for our country and our families. If we could all access just 10 percent of Maponya’s spirit, we could create a very different reality here at home. Nothing is impossible, and we need to know that, now more than ever.

The family is holding a closed memorial service to celebrate this truly magnificent life on Friday, 10 January 2020, at 10am, at the Rosebank Union Church.

Vusi Thembekwayo is the chief executive of MyGrowthFund.