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By Shanice Naidoo

Digital Journalist

From Mandela to lower petrol prices: How Raymond Ackerman may be remembered

Ackerman's legacy will go beyond the supermarket empire he built, touching the everyday political and social life of many South Africans over decades.

South Africans have remembered Pick n Pay founder Raymond Ackerman for his impact on South African life and history.

The businessman’s death was confirmed this week. He was 92. He is survived by his wife, Wendy, children Gareth, Kathy, Suzanne, and Jonathan, 12 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Ackerman‘s legacy will go beyond the supermarket empire he built, touching the everyday political and social life of many South Africans over decades.

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Here are just five things he may be remembered for:

Calling for the release of Mandela

As South Africa found itself in political, economic and social turmoil, Ackerman and a group of businessmen met FW de Klerk in 1989 to urge the newly-appointed president to release Nelson Mandela as soon as possible.

Ackerman and Mandela met many times after this, with Pick n Pay pledging money to his election campaign.

After Mandela’s death in 2013, Ackerman told CNBC Africa Mandela always had time for children and saw the best in everyone he met.

“I was absolutely amazed at the sincerity of the man’s approach to embracing all races and people, and giving hope to this country.”

Disobeying apartheid business laws

In that same 1989 meeting, Ackerman called for the scrapping of apartheid legislation.

Twenty years earlier, he committed to promoting all employees to managerial positions, in defiance of apartheid laws at the time.

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By the end of the 1970s, he was active in the newly-established Urban Foundation for equal opportunity policies and merit-based salaries and wages. He was critical of the government’s homelands policy, the Group Areas Act, job reservations and sanctions.

Fighting for lower petrol price

In the 1980s, Ackerman challenged government’s prohibition of a petrol coupon scheme, which gave customers grocery discount coupons with petrol purchases. Pick n Pay fought over 26 rounds with the government on petrol price cutting and lost each time. In 1986, Ackerman and the company succeeded in their battle.

His dad was also a famous businessman

Ackerman came from a retailing family. His father Gus founded clothing store Ackermans in Wynberg, Cape Town. 

Ackerman took many of the lessons taught by his father and put them into his new business in the 1960s.

From four stores to more than 2 000

Ackerman and Wendy founded Pick n Pay in 1967 after buying four stores in Cape Town.

He immediately put customers and staff at the centre of his philosophies. The couple retired from the Pick n Pay stores board in 2010, becoming honorary life presidents.

After 56 years in business, the Pick n Pay Group today serves millions of customers in more than 2 000 stores across South Africa and seven other African countries.

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