'He brought dignity to black people': Soweto residents honour Richard Maponya
Johannesburg - The community of Soweto honoured recently departed preeminent businessman Richard Maponya at a memorial service which took place at Maponya Mall in Soweto on Monday.
Maponya died on Monday last week following a short illness after an illustrious career which spanned over fifty years as a pioneering business entrepreneur.
Maponya Mall was built by Maponya in 2006. The Maponya family co-owns the mall with JSE-listed property company Redefine.
On September 24, 2007, late former president of South Africa (SA) Nelson Mandela cut the ribbon to declare Maponya Mall open for business.
In an audio-visual recording on two big screens at the memorial service in Soweto, showed Maponya explaining that he built Maponya Mall to “put up a mall that would stand anywhere in the world” for the people of Soweto to have a world-class mall within their community.
Maponya’s two children, daughter Chichi (named after Maponya’s mother) and son Solly, and Maponya’s nephew William Maponya seated in the front row of the large marquee erected on the grounds of the Maponya Mall.
Maponya Mall centre manager Howard Kekana, who called Maponya ‘Papa’ said Maponya proved to him that he mattered as a contributing citizen in SA. “Papa created that hope that there was a place for me in SA. He was living proof that we can be who we want to be.”
“Everything that Papa had achieved was as a result of discipline, and perseverance. Papa was unique. He left a dignified and lasting legacy. We will do our best to uphold it,” said Kekana.
Lizzy Mabasa, a ward councillor for Pimville-Klipspruit where Maponya Mall is located, said, the people of Soweto had lost a great man. “We’ve lost a father, a great giant, a great entrepreneur. Dr Maponya lived through the harsh realities of of the apartheid government and succeeded. He built a world-class Maponya Mall in the heart of South Africa: Soweto. It was like taking a Sandton and bringing it to Soweto.”
Mabasa said residents of Pimville and Klipspruit in Soweto did well out of the construction of the mall about 14-years ago, “as labourers who worked on the project”.
She said Maponya brought work closer to home. “People walk to work. People’s salaries are no longer spent on transport where you find someone earns a salary of R5000 and spends R3000 on transport.” She said by Maponya building the mall in the vicinity, it had improved the living conditions of the people of Soweto in a significant way.
“These days you even come to Maponya Mall to get your ID,” said Mabasa. Before the construction of Maponya Mall, Soweto residents had to spend on public transport to town to apply for or collect their IDs. Therefore, a walk to Maponya Mall to collect their ID at the Home Affairs office has saved money for hundreds of Soweto residents.
“Dr. Maponya was a soldier who brought dignity to black people,” said Mabasa.
Bheki Twala, a representative of SOBEC, an Africa-wide continental organisation of township businesses, and whose first experience of working collaboratively on community development projects with Maponya started in 1991, said Maponya demonstrated a spirit of entrepreneurship, and “one thing he was very passionate about was the youth unemployment” exemplified a collaborative and persevering spirit throughout his many challenges as a businessman.
Twala said Maponya always told him, “Let’s collaborate to make sure that our economy in the townships are growing.”
“Can we have another 99 Dr. Richard Maponyas,’ said Twala.
Thato Mothopeng of Soweto Tourism said Maponya was “an economic driver, a leader by example whose dream today is able to inspire the African child”.
As if he were addressing Maponya directly, Mothopeng said, “We vow to follow in your footsteps to build a better South Africa.”
A tenant at Maponya Mall, Bushan Ravjee, said Maponya Mall was the only one among its ilk which is named for their owner but all others, such as Sandton City Mall, were named by place of location. “Dr. Richard Maponya has planted a seed for us. It's up to us to build on it. Let the legacy grow to another 100 years,” said Ravjee.
In his vote of thanks and closing remarks, Maponya’s nephew, William Maponya, said the Maponya family was “humbled by your presence here today”.
He said, in reference to the people of Soweto, “Without you our job to prepare for the burial would have been very difficult.”
Bishop Victor Khumalo who had earlier delivered the homily concluded the memorial service with these words, “Let the light of God shine in Soweto.”
The funeral service for Maponya will take place at the University of Johannesburg Soweto Campus at 08h00-11h00, on Tuesday, January 14, 2020.