green communist

Frank Maponya

Rufus Maruma was a passionate environmentalist.

Growing up in apartheid South Africa he witnessed first-hand the grinding poverty of his people and this inspired him to become an expert on environmental issues. Managing refuse earned him respect at home and overseas.

"I was struck by the litter and the lack of proper sanitation in the townships," he once said.

As executive chairman of EnviroServ Holdings he made waste his business.

An environmentalist and waste management expert by profession, Maruma was a very busy man who sat on the boards of 15 companies by the time he died this week aged 49.

At his home village of GaMothapo, Polokwane, he was just one of the villagers, but a man who had overcome poverty to become a caring father, a visionary, a motivator, a role model, a community leader and a businessman.

He was always only a phone call away for anyone who needed heplp. Several of his companies where based in the province, including the family business, MoAfrika, and he ploughed back into a community that prepared him for the world stage.

Born in Tjatjaneng village, a rural outpost in GaMothapo in 1959, Maruma matriculated at Bakenburg High School in 1979 and went on to complete a BSc honours degree at the University of Limpopo.

Next stop was Aberdeen University in Scotland, to read for a master of science degree.

Maruma launched his business career in 1995 after a scintillating track record in government.

He founded Bohlweki, the largest black-owned environmental consultancy in South Africa. In just 10 years he had established himself as one of the most successful entrepreneurs in South Africa.

At the time of his death, Maruma was a director of more than 15 companies.

Before going into business, he had a distinguished career in the public service. He started as a part-time lecturer at his alma mater, Lillian Ngoyi University in KwaZulu-Natal. He also worked as an environmental officer in the department of agriculture in the then Lebowa homeland and then as a principal at Kgalema High School in Mafefe.

On his return from Scotland, he worked for Eskom as senior environmental manager in 1994 before being seconded to head the Limpopo department of environmental affairs and tourism.

He had many qualifications, mostly in environmental studies, including a masters in environmental science.

Of his career he once told the Sunday Times: "There were ups and downs. Understandably, environmental issues have never been prominent for blacks and were viewed with some caution. At a professional level, I was called a green communist."

Maruma is survived by his wife Pauline, three children and four brothers.

He will be buried at Tjatjaneng village, GaMothapo tomorrow. The service starts at his home at 8am.