President Cyril Ramaphosa gave a eulogy at the funeral service for business mogul Richard Maponya, and said he would endeavour to realise Maponya's dream of setting up a youth entrepreneurship academy. Picture: PRESIDENCYZA
President Cyril Ramaphosa gave a eulogy at the funeral service for business mogul Richard Maponya, and said he would endeavour to realise Maponya's dream of setting up a youth entrepreneurship academy. Picture: PRESIDENCYZA

President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Tuesday he would endeavour to help fulfil the goal of late business mogul Richard Maponya to train young entrepreneurs.

Ramaphosa was delivering the eulogy at the funeral service for Maponya, held at the University of Johannesburg's Soweto campus. He was accompanied by his wife, Dr Tshepo Motsepe. Former presidents Thabo Mbeki and Kgalema Motlanthe were among the dignitaries.

“Today we bid a sad farewell to a man of extraordinary resilience, who rose above his circumstances and persevered until he reached a pinnacle of success, and yet he remained humble,”  Ramaphosa told the attendees.  

Maponya succumbed to a short illness last week at the age of 99. He established a number of businesses during the apartheid era, when it was  almost impossible for black people to do so, said Ramaphosa.  

“Fifty years ago, the very idea that a black man could build and own a shopping mall in a black township, where young black men and women could socialise, eat, buy books and watch movies, would have been dismissed as a fantasy and yet Richard Maponya did it,” he said.

Maponya Mall opened in Soweto in 2007.

Ramaphosa commended Maponya’s resilience and legacy, which he said would live on.  

The late businessperson and his wife, Marina, who died in 1992, first opened a milk distribution company in Soweto. They expanded their business empire to include interests in retail, automotive, filling stations and property development.

Ramaphosa cited obstacles such as the lack of permits, licences and constant raiding of businesses by the apartheid government as some of the issues Maponya had to grapple with.

Speaking about their last encounter, Ramaphosa said Maponya had a dream of opening a youth entrepreneurship academy.

“In my very last engagements with him, he urged me to do everything I can to see his greatest dream realised — to set up a youth entrepreneurship academy. It is a wish I will endeavour to see fulfilled,” he said.  

Ramaphosa urged South Africans to strive to make a difference in their own right.

Co-operative governance and traditional affairs minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma described Maponya as a trailblazer.

“We're here today to put to rest a trailblazer who, during the days of apartheid, led the way in terms of business; a person who was very successful but never lost his humility. He remained among the people, he remained humble,” she said.

SA had lost a hero, because there were not many people like him, she said.

Asked how Maponya's legacy could be continued, Dlamini-Zuma said: “We all have to be serious about what we do, not only the businesspeople must carry on the legacy, but wherever we are, in any area, we can take lessons in how he did his work and how he remained rooted and grounded.”

Former cabinet minister Jeff Radebe described Maponya as a symbol of economic transformation, an entrepreneur who made an immense contribution to SA independence. He recalled how Maponya provided transportation and other support when Nelson Mandela was released from prison. He commended him for his selflessness in the struggle.

Gauteng premier David Makhura said Maponya was loved dearly by Soweto residents.

Maponya was buried at Westpark cemetery on Tuesday afternoon.