An ode to com­rade Ron­nie Mamoepa

The Star Early Edition - - INSIDE -

BE­TWEEN 1975 and 1979, a rep­re­hen­si­ble act was vis­ited on the town­ship of At­teridgeville, when sev­eral young girls dis­ap­peared. It would later be dis­cov­ered they had fallen vic­tim to a muti killer. Years of search­ing yielded no re­sults, much to the an­guish of par­ents, rel­a­tives and the com­mu­nity.

A group of young peo­ple barely into their teens raided the homes of lo­cal tra­di­tional heal­ers, in the be­lief they were re­spon­si­ble for the girls’ dis­ap­pear­ance. Among these young boys, driven by out­rage and a sense of jus­tice, was Ron­nie Mamoepa. They were ar­rested, but be­cause of their ema­ci­ated bod­ies, whence their bones pro­truded, they were given stern warn­ings and re­leased into the care of their par­ents.

When 1976 beck­oned, Ron­nie, 15, joined his older broth­ers to poke a brutish and blood-thirsty regime in the eye.

In 1978 I was in a damp cell of Sun­ny­side po­lice sta­tion, where the sun never reached. A teenage voice called my name. I asked who it was. “Ron­nie, mfana wa Thabo Mamoepa. I am also de­tained.”

To say I was stunned is an un­der­state­ment be­cause I thought Ron­nie was still a small boy. Soon I saw this young lad in ac­tion: sell­ing The Voice of the Voice­less news­pa­per, ca­jol­ing adults to buy Staffrider books, and when Solomon Mahlangu was sen­tenced to hang, ha­rangu­ing elders to sign a pe­ti­tion to save the life of this free­dom fighter. In these steps, another tire­less free­dom fighter was born.

Ar­rested and im­pris­oned on Robben Is­land, Ron­nie ma­tured with each year of his in­car­cer­a­tion. He im­bibed from the great lec­tur­ers of Robben Is­land the the­o­ries of our rev­o­lu­tion, and thus be­came him­self, upon his re­lease, a good teacher of di­alec­ti­cal ma­te­ri­al­ism and his­tor­i­cal ma­te­ri­al­ism.

And so I speak for many com­rades and friends when I say a tear­ful: Adiós, Com­rade Ron­nie, adiós! We have met and trav­elled to­gether a long time ago, but not so long ago.

Through­out your po­lit­i­cal work, you be­came one of our finest rev­o­lu­tion­ar­ies when it came to the­ory and prac­tice. You chose the me­dia as an im­por­tant weapon to ad­vance our strug­gle, and in time be­came an ex­pert, the Dean of Com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

With­out po­lit­i­cal books that were not al­lowed in jail, you re­pro­duced sig­nif­i­cant parts of Mau­rice Corn­forth’s Di­alec­ti­cal Ma­te­ri­al­ism.

Em­u­lat­ing the teach­ers that used to beat the day­lights out us, you re­fused to re­lease some com­rades who had dif­fi­culty grasp­ing the ba­sics in our po­lit­i­cal classes. You made fun of prison warders, much to the de­light of fel­low pris­on­ers. Adiós, My Brother, adiós! You had high am­bi­tions for your­self. When we asked the po­lice au­thor­i­ties to al­low us to play mu­sic tapes, you in­sisted on clas­si­cal mu­sic. And when fel­low com­rades com­plained, you re­torted: “When free­dom comes, I, Ron­nie, I will be lis­ten­ing to clas­si­cal mu­sic at the State The­atre with Oliver Tambo, and you, com­rades, will be lis­ten­ing to bub­blegum pop mu­sic at At­teridgeville Hall.” Adiós, Po­lit­i­cal Teacher, adiós! In the youth or­gan­i­sa­tions, start­ing in At­teridgeville-Saulsville, in Tsh­wane, in the then Transvaal and in­deed the en­tire coun­try, you in­sisted that to­gether with your peers, there was al­ways the need to sit around the bon­fire of learn­ing and teach­ing; of dis­cussing what are ma­jor and in­con­se­quen­tial con­tra­dic­tions.

You got a kick out of teas­ing the­o­ries and as­sump­tions, and how all those are ap­pli­ca­ble to our Strug­gle and to ev­ery­day life. Adiós, the Lover of Soc­cer, adiós! We had great and lousy mo­ments, ups and lows as our favourite blackand-white at­tired team played with our emo­tions. Re­mem­ber that day when you asked me that we should not talk pol­i­tics? Yet when we spoke of Pi­rates and Bafana Bafana, we be­came more stressed.

Adiós, the Dean of Com­mu­ni­ca­tions, adiós!

In­deed, you, the Dean of Com­mu­ni­ca­tions, served with dis­tinc­tion un­der pres­i­dent Mbeki and deputy pres­i­dent Zuma, deputy pres­i­dent Ramaphosa, min­is­ter Dlamini Zuma and premier Sexwale.

All these seems to be a long time ago! But not so long ago! Adiós, Com­rade Ron­nie, adiós! When we vis­ited you in hos­pi­tal, you lay still; not a sigh, not a groan es­caped your body. You lay there with undis­turbed seren­ity un­til you closed your well-spent life.

Yet, in your still­ness and seren­ity, you made and make our hearts ache and bleed; our minds stunned and be­wil­dered.

Com­rade Ron­nie, as you de­part into the solemn shades, as you leave us to the si­lent con­ti­nent of eternity, tell the sages and saints that await your ar­rival there are still many among us who are pre­pared to de­fend, pro­tect and per­pet­u­ate the mon­u­ment they have built for us.

Tell them that de­spite and in spite of the ter­mites that con­sis­tently at­tempt to eat away the great ed­i­fice they have be­queathed us, this mon­u­ment will not fall, for it comes from the most cun­ning work­man­ship, with forms that are not just strong but sym­met­ri­cal, beau­ti­ful and per­fect.

To­day, you are mourned by many, but es­pe­cially those who walked with you when the path seemed shrouded in clouds of dark­ness, doubt and pos­si­ble de­feat, but who en­dured with you.

Of course, even those who waited for the rough road you stren­u­ously carved to be smooth and paved, are them­selves there to be crowned with your vic­tory, your hon­our and your glory. And to claim all that for them­selves.

But in your seren­ity and si­lence you know­ingly smile at each and ev­ery one of us, as we all claim for our­selves the power and the glory for which you sac­ri­ficed your youth.

Adiós, Com­rade Ron­nie! Adiós!

You got a kick out of teas­ing the­o­ries and as­sump­tions

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