Prominent South African businessman Richard Maponya died aged 99 early on Monday after a short illness, his family said. Picture: Antoine de Ras.

Johannesburg - Prominent South African businessman Richard Maponya died aged 99 early on Monday after a short illness, his family said.

In a brief statement, family spokesman Mandla Sibeko said funeral arrangements would be announced in due course and asked for privacy.

Speaking separately on local radio, Sibeko said Maponya's death was a shock to the family as he was "the kind of man who was working every day and he was still working at 99 years old".

Popularly known as the father of black retail in South Africa, Maponya defied the restrictions of decades-long white apartheid rule to build a business empire, culminating in the opening of the Maponya mall in the sprawling Soweto township in 2007 which boasts more than 200 stores and a cinema complex.

African News Agency (ANA)