Former South African President Nelson Mandela, Johannesburg Mayor Amos Masondo and high-flying businessman Richard Maponya yesterday officially opened the R650 million Maponya Mall in Pimville, Soweto, where an estimated 100 000 onlookers and potential shoppers braved the rain to have an inquisitive look at what many observers now call the ‘Pearl of Soweto'.
The newly-opened Maponya Mall in Pimville, Soweto. Photo by Enoch Lehung.
Former President Nelson Mandela is seen here cutting the Maponya. Photo by Enoch Lehung.
Joburg mayor Amos Masondo and businessman Richard Maponya. Photo by Enoch Lehung.
In his opening remarks, entrepreneur Maponya – a partner in the joint venture that also comprises Investec and Zenoprop Property Holdings (responsible for Bryanston's upmarket Design Quarter), said: “I am not standing here to make a speech, but I am here to deliver to you the dream of 28 years that has today come true.
“I want to thank the people of Soweto for supporting me all these years and I firmly believe that they deserve a good deal after all these troubled times.
“Today I brought Sandton City right here in Soweto, and the onus is now on you people to ensure that you take very good care of this establishment. This property is yours and your children's; please protect it,” Maponya (82) told dignitaries and a huge crowd of reporters, including an international contingent from the BBC, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Associated Press and many more.
The 65 000 square-metre shopping mall, one of the biggest in southern Africa, boasts 200 shops – including Pick 'n Pay, Woolworths, Edcon Group stores, African Bank and McDonalds – eight Ster-Kinekor cinemas and a wide range of luxury finishes, banking offices, ATMs, cellphone and fast-food stores, restaurants, doctors' offices and various entertainment outlets.Jobs
The investment has created 1800 jobs, a ‘golden lifeline' for the community of Soweto, where only an estimated 80 000 people out of a population of 1.2 million – 43% of the Joburg's population – have formal jobs.
According to a study commissioned by the City of Johannesburg in 2004, Sowetans spend R4.2 billion on retail goods, but only 25% of this amount is spent in the township, due to the lack of sufficient and adequate retail facilities.
Addressing the audience, Mayor Masondo said that since the study was done three years ago, Sowetans have witnessed and experienced an increase in the number of major retail facilities, including the Protea Gardens Mall, Jabulani Mall and Trade Route Mall in Lenasia.
“Today is a great day,” he said, as the life-sized bronze memorial statue of Hector Pietersen, a much-celebrated victim of apartheid's brutality, looked on.
“The coming into being of this retail facility in Soweto will result in household budget savings, savings in travel time, and generation of local jobs within the retail sector, and an opportunity for the supply of crafts.”
Mandela, who did not give a formal speech, said after cutting the ribbon: “With this action, I declare the Maponya Mall officially open.”
Meanwhile, African Bank, one of the SA's financial service pioneers, has welcomed the opening of Maponya Mall, which the company believes is the most salient commercial initiative in the township to date.
“African Bank is extremely conscious of its roots in the community, and we are delighted to be part of Maponya Mall, which we believe will help change the face of Soweto, a key area of business for us,” Tami Sokutu, African Bank executive director, said.
The contact number for Maponya Mall is +27 (0)11 938 4448.