Richard Maponya

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Richard John Pelwana Maponya, GCOB,[1] (24 December 1920[1] – 6 January 2020[2]) was a South African entrepreneur and property developer best known for building a business empire despite the restrictions of apartheid and his determination to see the Soweto township develop economically.

Early career[edit]

Born in Thlabine, near Lenyenye (about 20km west of Tzaneen), Maponya, at the age of 24,[3] then a teacher, took a job as a stock taker at a clothing maker and subsequently won a promotion for both himself and his white manager. In gratitude, the manager sold Maponya soiled clothing and offcuts, which he resold in Soweto. With the capital acquired he attempted to open a clothing retailer in Soweto, but was blocked by the government's refusal to grant him a licence—–despite intervention by the law firm created by Oliver Tambo and Nelson Mandela.[4] Instead, in the early 1950s, Maponya and his wife Marina (a cousin of Nelson Mandela) established the Dube Hygienic Dairy, which employed a fleet of boys on bicycles to deliver milk to customers in Soweto who had no access to electricity or refrigeration.[5] By the 1970s the retail empire had grown to include several general stores, car dealerships and filling stations.[4]

Political activity[edit]

During the 1960s and 1970s Maponya was a member of the Urban Bantu Council. He resigned in 1977, shortly after youth affiliated with the African National Congress (ANC) requested that he do so, and shortly before the council offices were burnt to the ground.[5]

In the 1960s he was a founding member and the first president of the National African Federated Chamber of Commerce (Nafcoc) and likewise the founder and chairman of the African Chamber of Commerce.

But some consider his boldest political move to have been his choice of horse-racing colors. As the first black person to be granted such colors in South Africa, Maponya chose green, gold and black, the colors of the ANC.[6]

Maponya Mall[edit]

On 27 September 2007 Richard Maponya opened the Maponya Mall in Soweto. It holds more than 200 stores and a cinema complex.[7]

Maponya acquired the land where the mall is situated in 1979, at first as a 100-year lease. In 1994, after several attempts, he acquired it outright. Various attempts to finance construction failed until Maponya's holding company entered into a joint venture with Zenprop Property Holdings.


He died of old age on 6 January 2020 at the age of 99. He was laid to rest at the Westpark Cemetery on Tuesday 14 January 2020.[2]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b The Presidency - Republic of South Africa - Grand Counsellor of The Order of the Baobab in Gold
  2. ^ a b "Ntate Richard Maponya, the grandfather of black business in SA, dies aged 99". TimesLIVE. Retrieved 6 January 2020.
  3. ^ zwtetete Up from apartheid, Soweto millionaire a role model - AP
  4. ^ a b Perry, Alex (29 August 2007). "Retail Renegade: Richard Maponya". Time. Archived from the original on 4 September 2007. Retrieved 6 January 2020.
  5. ^ a b Soweto Rising, Maverick magazine, volume 2, issue 2
  6. ^ "I will die with my boots on". Mail & Guardian. Retrieved 7 July 2008.
  7. ^ "Mandela officially opens new Soweto mall". SABC. Retrieved 7 July 2008.
  8. ^ "National Orders awards 24 April 2007". SA Government Communication and Information Service. Archived from the original on 13 October 2008. Retrieved 7 July 2008.