Dr Richard Maponya stuck to his word not to retire until death - Motsuenyane

Richard Maponya.
Richard Maponya.
Image: SANDILE NDLOVU

"I'm not going to retire until my death."

These are the words the late township business pioneer Dr Richard Maponya uttered to long-time friend and fellow entrepreneur Dr Sam Motsuenyane when Maponya launched a poultry farm at the age of 94.

"Two weeks ago Richard and I had a meeting, and he didn't show any signs of weakness to raise suspicion that he could pass away," said Motsuenyane.

"He had a very strong vision for the country and he didn't even show signs of old age. When you get old you forget and stop to reason properly but he was still himself and I had expected him to live much longer.

"He said he was not going to retire until his death. He is a man who died with his boots on and he still talked about expanding his businesses."

Motsuenyane spoke to Sowetan following the death of Maponya on Monday, almost two weeks after celebrating his 99th birthday.

Maponya, the owner of Maponya Mall, Soweto's biggest shopping centre, was also the founding president of the National African Federated Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Nafcoc), a position he occupied between 1964 to 1966. Both entrepreneurs were founding fathers of Nafcoc, an organisation advocating for the rights of township entrepreneurs.

Motsuenyane said when Maponya launched the Winterveldt poultry farm five years ago, the two once again became close as they held regular business meetings.

"We were trying to get small farmers in Winterveldt to ensure that the land we have here was utilised optimally," he said.

"Maponya had great foresight and was a vigorous worker for development. He has grown the Winterveldt poultry farm to accommodate close to 100,000 birds. It's really a big operation that produces eggs," he said.

"He also told me that he was enlarging the Magaliesburg poultry farm that produces broilers to accommodate at least one million birds. He wanted the country to move from just being a nation of consumers to be a nation of producers."

"Maponya was chairman of the Johannesburg African Chamber of Commerce in the 1960s which brought together black business people in the city. But we saw a need for a bigger organisation representative of all black business people nationally so that they could talk in one voice. That was the reason we formed Nafcoc and we saw the need for black business to fight the oppressive regulations and laws that were promulgated at the time against the growth of black business, especially in the urban areas.

"We even visited the ANC in exile and planned together for the future development of our economy," said Motsuenyane  

Motsuenyane, however, said Maponya wasn't happy with the state of the economy.

"He was thinking that things should be improved as far as the economy is concerned, he wasn't too happy about the state of our economy at the present time.

"All of us, as business people, we are of course not entirely happy about the state of business and we should do much better in creating jobs for the young people. We are not doing very well in the area of job creation," he said.

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