Ron­nie’s chil­dren pay him heart­felt trib­utes

The Star Early Edition - - NEWS - SAKHILE ND­LAZI

THOSE who at­tended the memo­rial ser­vice for quintessential gov­ern­ment spokesper­son Ron­nie Mamoepa yes­ter­day heard how the 56-year-old was ac­tu­ally a “kid at heart” who was de­voted to his wife and chil­dren.

In a joint trib­ute by his chil­dren, Mamoepa who died on Satur­day af­ter spend­ing sev­eral weeks in hos­pi­tal fol­low­ing a stroke, was de­scribed as a “play­ful man who was sim­ple at heart”.

Del­e­gates, in­clud­ing for­mer pres­i­dent Kgalema Mot­lanthe, Health MEC Gwen Ramok­gopa, Ba­sic Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Angie Mot­shekga and di­rec­tor of the SA Na­tional Ed­i­tors’ Fo­rum Mathatha Tsedu, spoke highly of Mamoepa’s ex­cel­lent work ethic as a gov­ern­ment com­mu­ni­ca­tor.

But it was his chil­dren who stole the show with their heart­felt tales. His el­dest son Ole­file, 24, said his dad went to jail at a very young age and had lim­ited knowl­edge of how to be a child.

“When you are a kid, your child­hood is all about en­joy­ing and know­ing the world. And since my dad was a pris­oner, he missed out on those mo­ments.

“But he sure made up for them when he was with us. He loved fool­ing around,” he said.

Ole­file said al­though his dad was com­i­cal and play­ful, he al­ways took his job se­ri­ously and taught him a good work ethic. “As much as he joked around, he equally got his job done,” he said.

Mamoepa was a for­mer po­lit­i­cal pris­oner and politi­cian best known for his role as a long-stand­ing, re­spected gov­ern­ment com­mu­ni­ca­tor. In his lat­est role he served as Deputy Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa’s spokesper­son.

Ole­file added: “When you are a kid, small things put a wide smile on your face. As you grow older your ex­pec­ta­tions in­crease in ev­ery pos­si­ble way and you fail to take plea­sure in the tiny spe­cial mo­ments of life, but dad man­aged to take full plea­sure.”

Sakhile, 18, said his dad once woke him up in the mid­dle of the night, ask­ing him if he had heard funny noises down­stairs.

“I replied ‘no’, but he in­sisted we go down­stairs to suss out the noise. When we got down­stairs he opened the door, pushed me out and locked it. He said to me ‘you are the sol­dier and I’m the com­mu­ni­ca­tor, so lis­ten to my in­struc­tions…’”

His 22-year-old daugh­ter, Muriel, said she wanted to thank her dad for lov­ing their mom. He taught them what love was. “He would come home with only two Mag­num ice creams and we would ask him who they were for.

“And it was just for him and my mom,” she said, weep­ing.

Her father val­ued ed­u­ca­tion and made sure they re­ceived the best.

“I know I dis­ap­pointed my father with my ma­tric re­sults, but I made sure I made up for it and he saw me grad­u­ate twice.”

For­mer Home Af­fairs min­is­ter Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma also paid trib­ute to Mamoepa for his sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tion to the trans­for­ma­tion of the depart­ment’s im­age.

“One of­fi­cial was re­mind­ing me that it was such a plea­sure to work with Ron­nie be­cause he knew that when he was pre­par­ing a state­ment, a speech or a press re­lease, he would come to you and make sure that your facts are cor­rect,” she said.

Mamoepa will be given an of­fi­cial pro­vin­cial fu­neral at St Al­ban’s Cathe­dral in Pre­to­ria to­mor­row.

At the re­quest of Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma, flags at all na­tional cen­tres will fly at half-mast.

As much as he joked around with us, he equally got his job done

AS THE loved ones, friends, col­leagues, com­rades, and all South Africans come to terms with the pass­ing of Ron­aldo “Ron­nie” Mamoepa, we re­mem­ber him as a free­dom fighter and as a com­mu­ni­ca­tor of great stand­ing. For him com­mu­ni­ca­tion had to trans­late into aware­ness of the work of the coun­try. It had to mean some­thing to ci­ti­zens to en­sure they sup­ported and par­tic­i­pated in build­ing our democ­racy.

From his ear­li­est days Ron­nie chal­lenged the apartheid sys­tem which sought to dis­em­power and dis­en­fran­chise the ma­jor­ity of South Africans. His fight against this bru­tal sys­tem earned him a place in South Africa’s an­nals as one of the youngest po­lit­i­cal pris­on­ers on Robben Is­land.

His time on the Is­land and his in­ter­ac­tions with some of South Africa’s iconic stal­warts and a younger gen­er­a­tion of free­dom fight­ers, in­clud­ing Thami Mkhwanazi, Jerry Ma­jat­ladi, Dea­con Mathe and An­drew “Bossi” Phala, would in­spire Ron­nie through­out his life.

I first met Ron­nie in the 1980s, when he was part of a del­e­ga­tion to Lon­don to meet for­mer pres­i­dent Thabo Mbeki and me to dis­cuss is­sues that had emerged in the broad anti-apartheid move­ment. I re­mem­ber him as the youngest com­rade present, al­beit ar­tic­u­late and con­fi­dent in the dis­cus­sions.

I next met him at the his­toric Harare Chil­dren’s Con­fer­ence where hun­dreds of South African ac­tivists came to meet in­ter­na­tional par­tic­i­pants and a huge ANC del­e­ga­tion led by com­rade OR Tambo. I was sur­prised at young Ron­nie’s ca­pac­ity to freely in­ter­act with peo­ple.

From his youth, Ron­nie’s fierce com­mit­ment to the vi­sion of a South Africa at peace with it­self and the world, burned bright and has only been ex­tin­guished in death.

He has been cel­e­brated as a com­mu­ni­ca­tor and has been de­scribed by Mbeki as the dean of gov­ern­ment com­mu­ni­ca­tors. Yet Ron­nie was not merely an or­di­nary com­mu­ni­ca­tor of long stand­ing – he was a vi­sion­ary. He saw his role as a gov­ern­ment com­mu­ni­ca­tor as a na­tional duty.

Ron­nie was a mas­ter of read­ing the en­vi­ron­ment and seiz­ing the mo­ment to pro­mote the coun­try and its lead­er­ship pos­i­tively. In­deed he en­gaged in rep­u­ta­tion man­age­ment long be­fore it be­came a pop­u­lar con­cept.

He was of­ten heard say­ing that the me­dia did not go to bed and that when one coun­try was asleep, an­other was wak­ing up. Work­ing with Ron­nie may some­times have brought on a case of in­som­nia.

Those who manned the op­er­a­tions room at the then Depart­ment of For­eign Af­fairs, were al­ways on standby for a call when Ron­nie was out of the of­fice.

Ron­nie was as com­fort­able with heads of state and min­is­ters, dig­ni­taries and world lead­ers, as he was with the peo­ple of, for in­stance eJozini in a com­mu­nity cen­tre. De­spite his stature, Ron­nie was a man of the peo­ple – young and old, from all spheres and all races.

He was a great lover of tea and made sure that jour­nal­ists who at­tended me­dia brief­ings al­ways had some­thing to eat.

His open­ness of mind en­abled him to ap­pre­ci­ate views from across the po­lit­i­cal spec­trum. Among his great­est as­sets was his ap­pre­ci­a­tion of the law, and he would spend hours de­bat­ing le­gal is­sues with col­leagues.

Ron­nie’s pas­sion for en­sur­ing that South Africa was al­ways pro­filed pos­i­tively led to the frus­tra­tion of many col­leagues. He was known for push­ing his team beyond the bound­aries of what was prevalent. He would ask, “What are we do­ing that is new?” He sought in­no­va­tion. Ron­nie once walked into his of­fice at Home Af­fairs say­ing, “If the Pope can have a twit­ter ac­count, why can’t we, what are we do­ing?”

Noth­ing filled him with greater sat­is­fac­tion than see­ing a good story about the coun­try as a head­line news item.

In seek­ing to man­age the rep­u­ta­tion of the coun­try and gov­ern­ment, Ron­nie was ahead of his time. To en­sure max­i­mum ef­fi­ciency, he set up com­mu­ni­ca­tion teams with the full spec­trum of ser­vices – con­tent de­vel­op­ment, au­dio-vis­ual ser­vices, prod­uct de­vel­op­ment, years be­fore others.

Ron­nie was able to cre­ate a value propo­si­tion for ser­vice providers and stake­hold­ers to the ex­tent that they of­fered their ser­vices at no cost.

In pop­u­lar­is­ing poli­cies to ben­e­fit the peo­ple of our coun­try, Ron­nie sought plat­forms which were ap­peal­ing and ac­ces­si­ble. He would ask col­leagues to test them­selves against what their mothers would think when they heard or read the item in ques­tion.

In his ap­proach to mes­sag­ing which ap­pealed to the peo­ple of our coun­try to en­sure their buy in, Ron­nie was able to get, among other things, the sup­port of cor­po­rate en­ti­ties. In pro­mot­ing the early reg­is­tra­tion of birth at the Depart­ment of Home Af­fairs, Clien­tele fea­tured then Home Af­fairs Min­is­ter, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, at no cost.

He will be cel­e­brated for years to come for his bril­liance and the sheer force of na­ture that he was.

Ron­aldo “Ron­nie” Mamoepa, you were not easy to miss in life and you will not be easy to for­get in death.

It has been a priv­i­lege to serve the coun­try with you, to learn from you, to be in the or­bit of your dy­namism and en­ergy. Se­pela gabotse. We dip our ban­ners in cel­e­bra­tion and hu­mil­ity in be­ing able to share your jour­ney with you.

PIC­TURE: JAC­QUES NAUDÉ

‘GOOD­BYE DADDY’: Two of Ron­nie Mamoepa’s three chil­dren, Muriel, 22, and Sakhile, 18, at their father’s memo­rial ser­vice.

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