Richard John Maponya was born in Lenyenye in the Northern Transvaal (now Limpopo Province). The founder and first president of the National Federated Chamber of Commerce (NAFCOC), Maponya is also a trustee of the Urban Foundation and the SA Foundation.
Maponya studied teaching, but worked as an administration clerk instead after he qualified. He ventured into business, first by opening small grocery shops in Soweto with his wife. He then went on to bigger ventures such as setting up a funeral parlour, bus services, motor dealerships, a BMW franchise and petrol stations.
His biggest project to date is the joint venture with property group Zenprop in the construction of a shopping mall in Soweto, the Maponya Mall. It is one of the biggest in South Africa and was opened in September 2007.