Raymond Ackerman ‘champion for SA’ners’


Pioneering businessman, beloved family man and campaigner for South Africans’ rights.

This is how many people, political parties and even pres. Cyril Ramaphosa remembers business giant Raymond Ackerman in tributes.

Condolences are pouring in following the death of the 92-year-old business legend who built up retail giant Pick n Pay. The news about his death was announced on Thursday morning.

According to Ramaphosa, Ackerman is best known for his excellent business acumen, leadership and entrepreneurship. “Raymond Ackerman put people first and opposed the injustices that wanted to be imposed on the business sector at the time,” he says.

Alan Winde, Western Cape premier, says Ackerman’s absence will be felt, especially after everything he has done for South Africans. “He was a proud South African who believed in our country and its potential. His legacy will live on.”

Ackerman was born in a retail environment. His father, Gus, set up the clothing store group Ackermans after the First World War.

Raymond Ackerman bought four stores in Cape Town in 1967 and set up the retail giant known today as Pick n Pay. There are more than 2,000 stores nationwide these days.

“From the outset, Raymond has been dedicated to giving customers the best possible products, best possible value and best possible service in its stores,” said a statement from the store group.

“He would stop and ask people walking home with shopping bags from rival stores why they didn’t shop at Pick n Pay.”

By the late 1970s, Ackerman had become a prominent campaigner for equal opportunity policies and merit-based compensation.

He was determined to give all his employees, regardless of race, the chance to advance to management level.

In a crucial legal dispute about food prices, Ackerman dragged the government to court at least 26 times in the 1980s in an attempt to help reduce the price of food – and he succeeded in doing so in the case of products such as bread, milk and chicken.

He was also strongly opposed to the levying of VAT on basic food products; a dispute that “he fought on behalf of the poor, and won”.

In 1989, Ackerman and a group of businessmen with ex-pres. FW de Klerk met and appealed to the then president to abolish apartheid and ex-pres. to release Nelson Mandela.

“After Mandela was released, Raymond and Mandela maintained a good relationship,” says Pick n Pay in a statement.

Ackerman was also the driving force behind efforts to bring the 2004 Olympic Games to Cape Town, devoting much funding to the initiative.

In 2004, he founded the Raymond Ackerman Academy for Entrepreneurial Development in partnership with the University of Cape Town, which was later joined by the University of Johannesburg. The academy produced hundreds of new business owners who in turn created new job opportunities.

“Raymond Ackerman’s ambition and sense of innovation, together with his deep love for his country, are responsible for hundreds of thousands of jobs that have sustained families and economies for the betterment of our country over decades,” says John Steenhuisen, leader of the DA.

Ackerman is survived by his wife, Wendy, and children Gareth, Kathy, Suzanne and Jonathan. He also leaves behind 12 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.