South African ‘father of black retail’ dies

Businessman Richard Maponya, who was known as the the father of black retail in South Africa, has died at the age of 99.

Maponya died in the early hours of Monday following a short illness, his family said.

“It’s been a shock to the family. He was the kind of man who was working every day and he was still working at 99-years-old,” family spokesman Mandla Sibeko said.

Maponya who trained as a teacher, ventured into business by selling garments to miners and rural people in the early 1950s.

His business grew and he established retail shops, including a dairy, butchery, and a petrol station.

He also operated a General Motors dealership before the American company pulled out of South Africa in 1987.

In the country’s largest black township, Soweto, Maponya established the first BMW dealership and developed the Maponya Mall.

He hosted Nelson Mandela at his home soon after the leader’s release from 27 years in prison in 1990.

In 2007, he was awarded the Order of the Baobab in Silver for his “excellent contribution to entrepreneurship despite oppressive apartheid conditions, and for serving as an inspiration to disadvantaged South Africans striving for business success”.

He was also a trustee of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund and founded the first the National African Federated Chamber of Commerce among many other accolades.

I knew him and his family – he was the quintessential gentleman.

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