Thousands of mourners gather in Soweto for the funeral of Richard Maponya

Thousands of people have arrived for Richard Maponya's funeral
Thousands of people have arrived for Richard Maponya's funeral
Image: Thulani Mbele

Thousands of people have started to arrive in Soweto for the funeral of celebrated entrepreneur and businessman Richard Maponya.

The special official funeral declared by President Cyril Ramaphosa is being held at the University of Johannesburg, Soweto campus. Soweto is the township that Maponya served all his life and the university houses the Dr Richard Maponya Institute For Entrepreneurship in his honour.

The funeral service will be attended by Ramaphosa and former president Thabo Mbeki among many dignitaries.

Maponya died last week Monday in hospital at the age of 99. He had recently celebrated his birthday in December.

Born in Tlhabini, a village outside Lenyenye in Limpopo, Maponya married Marina, a qualified social worker and the cousin of former president Nelson Mandela, in the 1950s.

The two became a power couple that propelled the family business into a general dealer, eatery, butchery, liquor stores and supermarket, car dealership and filling station.In April 2015, the Durban University of Technology awarded Maponya with an honorary doctorate.

He has scooped various awards including the Small Business Excellence Award (2007), World Enterprise Award (2008), was a recipient of the Top 100 Companies Award: Business Times (2008), Lifetime Achievement Award and a BEE Entrepreneur Award.

Last year, he became the second person to win the Lifetime Achiever Award, which is the highest accolade in the 30-year-old Entrepreneur of the Year competition.

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