South Africa has lost a visionary business leader - Cyril Ramaphosa

President Cyril Ramaphosa.
President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Image: GCIS

President Cyril Ramaphosa has praised the late business icon Richard Maponya as principled leader who defeated adversity and succeeded for the benefit of many.

Ramaphosa told mourners in Soweto that SA has lost a visionary leader and a man of extra-ordinary resilience who rose against difficult circumstances until he reached the pinnacle of success. Despite his achievements in business, Maponya remained humble and generous, he said.

Circa September 1972: South Africa's first black millionaire Richard John Maponya was born on 24 December 1926 in the Northern Transvaal (now Limpopo Province). He is best known for building a retail business empire during the 1960s and 1970s, despite the restrictions of Apartheid, and for his contribution to the economic development of Soweto township.
Circa September 1972: South Africa's first black millionaire Richard John Maponya was born on 24 December 1926 in the Northern Transvaal (now Limpopo Province). He is best known for building a retail business empire during the 1960s and 1970s, despite the restrictions of Apartheid, and for his contribution to the economic development of Soweto township.
Image: Rand Daily Mail Archives

"South Africa indeed has lost a visionary business leader... We've lost the most outstanding entrepreneur," Ramaphosa said.

He described Maponya as a man who was adamant that economic development begins in communities and saw a great potential of a township economy.He remembered him for his humility and willingness to acknowledge contributions of others, especially his late wife Marina.

"The most important aspect of the late Maponya's life was that he was an ethical and principled business person. He was appalled by the practice of some businesses that provided sub-standard services and inferior goods because the public they serve is poor," Ramaphosa said.

He praised Maponya for being fond of young people and mentoring business leaders such as Wendy Luhabe and Felicia Mabuza-Suttle. The two earlier spoke at the funeral, sharing lessons and of light moments they had with Maponya in their youth.

Ramaphosa said Maponya was a leader who spoke against a sense of entitlement.

"He impressed upon young people the values of hard work and of taking up opportunities, but more specially opportunities of educating themselves," he said.

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