As you enter the gates of Soweto’s biggest shopping mall, you are welcomed by a majestic statue of an elephant. The elephant is seen to represent Richard Maponya as being part of the “big five” of business and retail in Soweto, but the actual symbolism of the stature has nothing to do with the man’s businesses.
“We Africans have clans and our different clans are sometimes represented by animals. The Maponya clan is represented by the elephant. Ke de tlou [they are the elephants],” said Aaron Moloisi, who was master of ceremonies for the ribbon-cutting at the new Maponya Mall, on Thursday.
The Maponya Mall has about 180 stores and will be employing 1 800 people. Johannesburg mayor Amos Masondo praised the mall for being more than just a facelift for Soweto, describing it as a “radical reconstruction” for Johannesburg.
“The work done here reaffirms the view that Maponya Mall seeks to encourage development in Johannesburg,” said Masondo
Former South African president Nelson Mandela had the honour of cutting the golden ribbon to formally open the mall. “With this action we declare the mall open. Thank you,” Madiba said.
Madiba declared the mall open at about 10am. Hours before this people had already been inside the mall and done some shopping.
“I got here at 8am and it was already packed,” said Yoliswa Mkhize, who came all the way from Bramley, north of Johannesburg, to see the mall.
Soweto’s first ever multiplex Ster-Kinekor cinema was also opened at Maponya Mall on Thursday. The eight-screen, Junction cinema was officially opened by Ster-Kinekor theatre CEO Fiaz Mahomed and Maponya.
The Ster Kinekor opening was attended by Oscar winners Terry Pheto and Presley Chweneyagae, who will make it on to the cinema’s wall of fame. The chief operations officer of Primedia content, Ferdie Gazendam, told the Mail & Guardian Online that the opening of a cinema in Soweto was long overdue. “At long last we have cinemas close to the people of South Africa.”
Most of the tenants that have occupied shops in the mall were open for business on Thursday. Shops that were not occupied were closed and did not look like they would be ready soon — some of them still had electricians going about their business.
A Pick ‘n Pay Hypermarket and Pick ‘n Pay clothing store were up and running. A crowd of about 200 people were standing outside of Pick ‘n Pay Hypermarket.
“We have been waiting here for close to two hours trying to get in,” said Jane Mabuya, standing outside of the store. Mabuya added that the management of Pick ‘n Pay were letting people in a group at a time as to avoid a stampede. “I don’t mind — after all they are thinking about our safety, so I’ll stand here as long as I need to,” she said
Luckily for Mabuya, the shops at the mall are open from 9am to 9pm.