Tue, 28 Jan 2020

How Maponya's business acumen opened doors

News24
12 Jan 2020, 22:14 GMT+10

As South Africa and the black business fraternity prepares to lay the late Dr Richard Maponya in his final resting place on Tuesday, many people remember the father of township retail for his bold move of establishing the R650m Maponya Mall in Soweto back in 2007.

At the time, no other business was willing to put that amount of investment in the township, although today the mall is 51% owned by JSE-listed Redefine Properties.

But Maponya's business interests were in fact varied and impactful, several of his friends and business associates narrated on Friday.

Maponya passed away on Monday at age 99 after a brief illness. President Cyril Ramaphosa has declared a special official funeral on Tuesday to honor him.

Between his well-documented beginning, where he sold secondhand clothing, to the time when he established mall in Soweto, Maponya knocked on doors he was not supposed to as a black man at the time, and sealed deals with international giants like Cocacola and Barloworld, to name a few.

'His eyes sparkled'

Business leaders who attended his memorial on Friday included former Firstrand CEO, Sizwe Nxasana, former Johannesburg mayor, Herman Mashaba, Redefine CEO, Andrew König, and Barloworld Motor Retail SA CEO, Roland Egger many of whom testified about how sharp his business acumen was.

"When you spoke to doc about business, those eyes sparkled," remarked Barloworld Motor Retail SA CEO, Roland Egger.

Maponya worked with Barloworld for ten years, during which he established Toyota and VW dealerships in Soweto with the company, the first in the township.

He'd walk into a bank, ask for finance for his business ventures, without any collateral in his name. This was the type of courage needed to establish the first black-owned beverage bottling plant in SA which eventually became the distributor of Coca-cola products, the Kilimanjaro bottling plant in East London.

Entrepreneurial spirit

Although Maponya later sold Kilimanjaro, his close friend and business associate, Gaby Magomola, said the fact that this company reached the level of listing on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange was testimony of the "warist" in Maponya that didn't surrender.

Maponya who founded the National African Federated Chamber of Commerce (Nafcoc) with other members in 1964 was also involved in the establishment of African Bank, the first bank for black people in SA ,which launched in 1975. He and co-founder of Nafcoc, Dr Sam Motsuenyane, raised R1m, which at the time was enough to establish a bank.

"Without Dr Maponya's vision and bravery, and strong entrepreneurial spirit, the dream of a bank for black people would never have become possible," said African Bank's executive of Human Capital, Lindiwe Miyambu.

Away from the limelight, Maponya continued to roll his sleeves, helping farming communities and other business minded Sowetans to commercialise their trade. Ntombi Matjene of Winterveldt Farming Community where Maponya launched a poultry farm five years ago said he believed in agriculture to eradicate poverty. The farm located Magaliesburg currently produces one million birds per five-week cycle which amounted to 5.4-million broilers in 2019. Even in his absence, he's left solid plans to ensure the farm continues to grow.

"There are six houses under construction that will be brought into use in March 2020, raising its broiler production to 7.5-million per annum," said Ladi Adelusi, a representative of the Maponya Group, who had become Dr Maponya's right hand man.

All this does not surprise those who knew him well, as he ranked his businesses' ability to change people's lives, far higher in his order of priority than his own financial returns, said Redifine CEO, Andrew König. "Dr Maponya deeply cared for the relevance and wellbeing of the community that Maponya Mall serves," said König.

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