TRIBUTES FOR RONNIE MAMOEPA
Spokesperson dies in hospital after stroke
PRAYER sessions for late government communicator and Struggle stalwart Ronnie Mamoepa are expected to start today and run until Friday at his home in Centurion as condolences pour in.
This comes as Mamoepa’s death at the weekend was confirmed by the Presidency on Saturday night.
Mamoepa, 56, had been battling complications from a stroke since being admitted to hospital five weeks ago. He was at the Unitas Hospital in Pretoria at the time of his death.
Heart-wrenching tributes from those who knew and worked with Mamoepa included one from Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, who said this was a great loss not only to himself personally but also to the Presidency.
Former president Thabo Mbeki described Mamoepa as a devoted servant of the people, a loyal cadre, a model fellow citizen and a dean of government communications.
“One of his many qualities that those who knew Comrade Ronnie will miss is his keen sense of humour and ability to communicate vital truths in jest,” Mbeki’s Foundation said.
Mamoepa is an icon of the country’s liberation Struggle, having served five years of his youth incarcerated at Robben Island prison in Cape Town.
After the 1994 democratic elections, he joined the government and served the country with distinction as a communications practitioner.
His extensive experience included ANC communications and various communications roles in government, notably the Presidency, the then Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of Home Affairs.
Mamoepa family spokesperson, Groovin Nchabeleng, said Mamoepa’s next of kin had asked the country to join them in prayer as they come to terms with their untimely loss.
Nchabeleng added that the family expressed its sincere appreciation to the management and staff of Unitas Hospital, who cared for Mamoepa during his five-week stay.
“We are also grateful for all the tokens of support received from members of the family, friends, colleagues and associates from Ronnie’s extensive network around the country and internationally,” said Nchabeleng.
He added that the family held a prayer session yesterday at Mamoepa’s home in Pretoria and will also host devotion sessions there for the entire week.
DA national spokesman Refiloe Nt’sekhe also extended her heartfelt condolences to the Mamoepa family, saying the party remains grateful for his commendable work as a public servant.
Minister of Science and Technology Naledi Pandor said: “I fondly remember Ronnie as a very capable and professional head of communications at Home Affairs department.
“We worked closely together, drawing on his ideas for broadening communications and serving the public.”
The Nelson Mandela Foundation recalled Mamoepa’s association with the late president, dating back many years, to when they first met on Robben Island.
“Our condolences to his wife Audrey, their family, comrades and friends, and to Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and colleagues with whom he worked until he fell ill last month,” the statement read.
The South African Communist Party said it was also saddened by Mamoepa’s death.
It added that, in his memory, the party would strengthen its efforts to forge the broadest possible patriotic front, in defence of the country’s constitution and the deepening of democracy.
Congress of the People (Cope) president Mosiuoa Lekota said he knew Mamoepa from the era of the United Democratic Front and as a young star on Robben Island.
“He was always a committed and hard-working comrade with a passion for communicating to our nation,” Lekota said.
Meanwhile, details of funeral arrangements will be released today.
His family has asked the country to pray with them
Tabane is author of Let’s Talk Frankly and host of Power Perspective on Power 98.7 Sundays to Thursdays 9.30pm to midnight
AFEW week ago, the SACP met in Ekurhuleni to deliberate on the future of the ANC. The party would have us believe that this is an unprecedented development that will shape history. Last week, the party concluded its national congress on a highly repetitive note – repeating many of its old resolutions and returning its old leadership to power.
In many ways it consolidated its ongoing irrelevance in the South African political landscape. Quite frankly, repeating slogans of the NDR (National Democratic Revolution) such as “most direct route to socialism”, as well as tired interventions, such as a threat to convene yet another jobs summit, left many leftists disappointed.
Very few comrades within the movement have pointed an accusing finger at the SACP for failing in its mission of being a vanguard of the working class. Many of us are sentimental about what the SACP ought to be and what it used to be, but now all dialectical discussion seems to have been replaced with a frank assessment of the actual, and not the perceived, revolutionary role of the party.
During our student days, shouting the name of the SACP drew a great deal of applause as we naively believed that the party was the leader in thought generation in the alliance. The use of the names Moses Kotane, JB Marks and even Joe Slovo and Chris Hani had us all excited. But none of the revolutionary adages, supposed to designate what the party was meant to be or do, actually materialised much in our post-1994 existence. The SACP has been a monumental disappointment and certainly not a vanguard of our people in the slightest of ways. I wish I were exaggerating the party’s non-role, but in fact I’m putting things very mildly.
Let’s take a look at just a few of its cardinal failures.
Failure to initiate radical policy. There is no evidence that the SACP, as a party, has initiated any legislation despite sitting in Parliament in alliance with the ruling party since 1994. As a vanguard party, its members or leadership could have picked a range of policies and laws affecting workers to ensure the party’s role in the vanguard. To this day, leadership and members can point to no such legislation.
Failure to fight against neoliberalism within the alliance. The Gear (Growth, Employment and Redistribution) phase remains the prime example of how the SACP was a toothless ally, happy to go along with neoliberalism. Since 1996, the SACP has done nothing to reverse the devastating consequences of anti-socialist economic policies. In fact, they joined the government, surrendered their general secretary and participated in policy paralysis for more than a decade, removing any remaining hope that the party might steer the ANC away from neoliberalism.
Failure to deliver on a programme to engender confidence in whatever is remaining of any kind of socialist programme. There is no tangible socialist programme of intervention to speak of in the programmes of the SACP that are significant in the economic policy framework. Programmes, such as the Red October project, demonstrate the SACP is a minor pressure group whose campaigns never shift policies.
Failure to educate the public about its mission. Very few people who are not members can tell you why there is a need for the SACP to exist. Internally there is no clear education programme, not even one about what socialism really means. President Jacob Zuma made an observation that after an entire week of meeting there was no “seminal declaration about how the SACP intends building socialism”. Sadly, he is right. While the party took a correct stance in not allowing Zuma to address them, even in his absence, it is still a total failure as a vanguard. Members have generally not had the courage of their convictions and they cannot bring the administration down, largely because they themselves are trapped in its patronage. They threatened to resign en masse not so long ago but changed their minds as soon as they saw the wind blowing otherwise. Patronage politics got the better of them. A detailed analysis of their shifty factional politics is not even necessary at this stage to reach the conclusion of the party’s irrelevance.
Failure to unite workers. This must be the SACP’s cardinal sin. To call yourself a vanguard of the workers and then spend time dividing workers, as the SACP has done in the break-up of Cosatu, is simply sinful. We are all clear about the fact that when Cosatu started straying under Zwelinzima Vavi, the relationship between SACP and Cosatu deteriorated so much that it was clear that the SACP could have no possible positive influence in the life of Cosatu. The subsequent breakup of Cosatu and the birth of Safta is a direct result of the failure of the SACP and Cosatu as alliance partners to intervene decisively to keep workers united. Only a dishonest analysis could arrive at a different conclusion.
Now, with all these failures that go to the heart of why anyone would need a communist party, why should anyone care if the SACP stands for elections on its own? The question is, what did being part of the ANC stop the party doing that it will now be able to do if it stands for elections independently? This, by the way, is not even a new resolution – it’s a 10-year-old resolution that the SACP clearly had no stamina to implement because members know in their hearts of hearts that they don’t really mean it.
Is this the same party for which Chris Hani shed his blood? This is a party that has failed to fight for the moral leadership and uprightness of the ANC, a party that has failed to intervene to uplift young people in any way. This is a party placed in charge of crucial portfolios such as higher education, but to no socialist end. I wish I had more time to unpack the ideological failures but stressing the more simplified ones was necessary to underline the irrelevance that the party has become. South Africa needs a new vanguard for workers – who is it going to be?
MOURNED: Ronnie Mamoepa, a Struggle stalwart.
NOWHERE PEOPLE: SACP delegates are all sound and fury at the party’s national congress in Boksburg earlier this month.