Mamoepa never about po­si­tion

The Star Early Edition - - LIFESTYLE - Paseka Mokhethea

TO ME Ron­nie Mamoepa was a hero who I heard about in my days of ANC Youth League branch pol­i­tics in the East­ern Free State, in Ficks­burg.

At one meet­ing in Lady­brand, an ANC el­der men­tioned him and ad­vised us to em­u­late him as one of the few peo­ple who grew up in the strug­gle and was sent to Robben Is­land at a young age.

I grew up wish­ing to meet him and learn from him, even dur­ing my stud­ies at Wits Univer­sity.

As fate would have it, I joined gov­ern­ment com­mu­ni­ca­tions (GCIS) in Au­gust 2000, and one day he walked in to ask for help with com­pil­ing the first an­nual re­port of the Depart­ment of For­eign Af­fairs since 1948.

On en­ter­ing the re­cep­tion area, every­one who had been at GCIS started to run away,whis­per­ing “Ron­nie Mamoepa is here. We will never fin­ish what we are do­ing!”

In true Mamoepa style he came to­wards our of­fice space greet­ing and chat­ting to every­one, from the se­cu­rity guards to the clean­ers, with a loud voice and a chirpy laugh. Every­one was called “chief”. He cracked jokes call­ing us all “the agents of gov­ern­ment pro­pa­ganda”.

He pro­ceeded to the of­fice of our man­ager for a con­sul­ta­tion. Af­ter a few min­utes he stepped out, all quiet with a look of frus­tra­tion.

I could tell there was some­thing wrong but I also thought that this was my op­por­tu­nity to meet my hero. I was scared be­cause given his gov­ern­ment and po­lit­i­cal stand­ing, I thought he would brush me aside. This was the man who was the spokesper­son for pres­i­dents Nel­son Man­dela and Thabo Mbeki.

I fol­lowed him to the re­cep­tion and when he ex­ited to the park­ing lot I ran to him.

I greeted him and said “Dumela Ntate!”(Good day Sir!)

He reached out his hand and said “Dumela Morwa Rre!” While shak­ing my hand, he said: “But who said to you, Chief that ev­ery black per­son speaks Se­sotho?”

I was star­tled for a sec­ond and I apol­o­gised to which he re­sponded, “It’s okay, just be care­ful, Chief!”

I told him what I had heard about him and he kept on cor­rect­ing my ver­sion. About 30 min­utes later we were still chat­ting, with him ask­ing me to re­peat the good parts of the story.

Ntate Mamoepa was the first per­son to be­lieve in me when I only had a few months’ ex­pe­ri­ence in gov­ern­ment com­mu­ni­ca­tions.

He was good at un­earthing and recog­nis­ing tal­ent but also at iden­ti­fy­ing medi­ocrity. He gave many young peo­ple a chance next to him.

Ntate Mamoepa was never about po­si­tions or ranks. Many peo­ple who he groomed be­came deputy di­rec­tors-gen­eral long be­fore him, but he never com­plained.

He taught me the value of giv­ing to peo­ple who are less for­tu­nate. He lived for his job and would wake you up in the “wee” hours or late at night.

He had good re­la­tions with all stake­hold­ers in an or­gan­i­sa­tion and out­side, es­pe­cially the me­dia. Rest in peace Ntate! Rest in peace Morwa Rre” Act­ing head of com­mu­ni­ca­tions in the Depart­ment of Home Af­fairs

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