The first Township Entrepreneur Awards took place on Saturday at the Nasrec Centre, close to Soweto in Gauteng. They are SA’s first awards to celebrate the achievements of township entrepreneurs, and a mix of high-profile business personalities and A-list celebrities were in attendance.
Soweto business tycoon Dr Richard Maponya received the Lifetime Achievement Award for the major strides he has taken in business over the years.
Often referred to as the ‘father of township entrepreneurship’, his business ventures having included numerous general dealers, a car dealership, a funeral parlour, filling stations and bus services. Maponya is the owner of Maponya Mall in Soweto. He is also the founder of the National African Federated Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and the African Chamber of Commerce.
Premier of Gauteng David Makhura had the honour of presenting the award, and in Maponya’s acceptance speech, he reiterated the importance of black people supporting black business.
“We have the power; we have the numbers, we can do it. The future is in our hands. If we black people can support one another like we see other racial groups do, we will definitely control the purse strings of this country,” he said.
He also touched on the issue of tribalism, and blamed apartheid for “damaging our thinking”.
“It looks like the apartheid has damaged our thinking because we still recognise each other as Zulu, Xhosa, Pedi, whatever,” he said. “Let us stop doing that. Let’s support every black person. Anybody wearing this complexion must be supported,” he urged.
In a previous interview with DESTINY MAN, Maponya said that young entrepreneurs are not doing themselves justice with the attitude of ‘entitlement’ that many of them have.
“I’m concerned with what I see – how our young entrepreneurs are believing that they’re entitled to certain things instead of them waking up and working and achieving something, and when you’re having difficulties, then asking for assistance,” he said.
Despite this, Maponya said he believes that the young entrepreneurs of this generation have the ability to dramatically reduce poverty in the country if they are encouraged to do so, and if the South African business environment were to be kinder to aspirant entrepreneurs.
“As they grow their businesses they address poverty as well. Believe you me, with more people creating job opportunities – this country could turn around overnight and the kind of poverty we see will be a thing of the past. I’m hoping I can see this happening in my lifetime,” Maponya said.