Dr Richard Maponya is the true embodiment of a social entrepreneur. He blossomed in adversity and built a profitable business armed only with creative strategy and hard work against the oppressive laws of apartheid South Africa. Today he stands a titan in the business arena, holding victory for himself and his beloved society, Soweto. Dr Maponya’s ventures have resulted in the creation of thousands of jobs and the overall economic and social prosperity of Soweto. And even with all these extraordinary professional ventures Richard Maponya built a loving family with late wife Marina. They have eight children and eighteen grandchildren.
In 1952 Maponya and his wife opened the very first dairy product shop in Soweto. Compensating for the lack of electricity and refrigerators, Maponya mobilized a group of youths and bicycles to deliver fresh milk. Dube Hygienic Dairy was the backbone to Maponya’s future business endeavours. By the 1970s Nelson [Mandela] and [Oliver] Tambo assisted Dr Maponya to manoeuvre the bureaucracy of Soweto’s city council allowing licence to open a number of diverse businesses. Maponya tended his business, developing his initial grocery store into a chain of supermarkets and kept his eye peeled for opportunity.
Soon Maponya’s venture became more sizeable Mountain Motors and Soweto BMW the first car dealerships in Soweto. He then proceeded to band together a group of black businessmen to form Kilimanjaro Holdings (Pyt) Ltd. They bid successfully for both a plant in East London and South Africa’s first mobile phone service providers, Afrilink. And have gone down in history as the first black owned company to be listed JSE.
Maponya’s efforts stretched past business and into politics, but his incentives did not stray from business. During his fourteen year reign as president of Johannesburg African Chamber of Commerce he targeted uniting small businessmen. The initiative resulted in the formation of the National African Federation Chamber of Commerce (NAFCOC) in 1979.
In 1997 Maponya made his mark in real-estate together with a group of talented property developers and established Maponya Developments. Today the company has complete developments worth over R400 million in the form of retail area, parking and office space, centres and many more.
However he never forgot his duty to society and is one of the trustees of The Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund. Started in 1995, the organization is dedicated to saving unprotected children as well as guiding them to become skillful, proactive members of society. In 2007 the Maponya Mall was opened in Soweto, costing R650 million in investment, incorporating 200 shops and creating an estimated 1800 jobs. After over two decades Maponya was finally able to give Soweto the retail facility that is now referred to as ‘the pearl of Soweto’.
Maponya’s efforts have not been ignored by the business community. Dr Richard John Pelwana Maponya was the winner of the 2012 Entrepreneurship Lifetime Achievement Award at the Africa Awards for Entrepreneurs. Mr. Fred Swaniker, CEO and co-founder of African Leadership Network named his life to be a ‘testimony to the resilience, patience, determination and focus that makes a good entrepreneur’.
Durban University of Technology awarded Dr Richard Maponya Honorary Doctorate in the Faculty of Management Sciences on 23 April 2015.
Disclaimer: This article was originally published on Richard Maponya’s Facebook page.