Life and times of Ronnie Mamoepa

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Ronnie Mamoepa, the fourth child of Mrs Helen Mamoepa, was born in Atteridgeville, west of Pretoria. From humble beginnings he was destined to leave an indelible mark on the country’s communication environment and on the Departments in which he worked over his almost four decade career as a communicator and activist.

He attended the Matseka Lower Primary School in Atteridgeville, Pretoria from 1966 to 1969 and the Walton Jameson Higher Primary School from 1970 to 1973. Following this Ronnie attended the Hofmeyer High School from 1974 to 1979.

His education was interrupted by his political activities. Between 1976 and 1979, he was involved in the Atterdgeville - Saulsville student movement and was detained on many occasions under the country’s terrorism laws. 

His political activism saw him being arrested at the age of nineteen on the charge of conspiracy to overthrow the state. He began serving his five year sentence on Robben Island at the age of twenty making him one of the youngest political prisoners on the Island.

It was on the Island that he obtained his matric certificate in 1983 following which he registered with UNISA to pursue a B.Juris degree.

Following his release from Robben Island, Ronnie returned to his home in Atteridgeville, Pretoria and continued with his political activities. During this time, he was also an Executive Member of the Atteridgeville - Saulsville Detainees Support Committee and the Pretoria Youth Congress.

He was responsible for mobilising young people behind the banner of the ANC – UDF, organising political lessons for the youth in the township as well as media and publicity. He also ensured that the work of the Civic Organisation (ASRO) and Detainees Support Committee was profiled.

At the same time, from 1986-1990, he worked as a journalist for SASPU National. Through his writing he aimed to promote and project the aims and objectives of the broad democratic movement.

From 1989 to 1991, Ronnie served as a Provincial Executive Committee Member of UDF Southern Transvaal. He was also the spokesperson of the UDF in the region and was tasked with the development of a media and communication strategy. During this time – 1990-1991, he was also an Executive Committee member of the ANC Atteridgeville - Saulsville branch.

In 1990, Ronnie served on the Media team of the National Reception Committee. Working under the leadership of Zwelakhe Sisulu, he developed and implemented the communication strategy to support the release of political prisoners, including Nelson Mandela, from prison. It was also an opportunity to profile the ANC and its contribution to a South Africa on the verge of attaining its freedom.

From 1991 to 1992 Ronnie served as the ANC Gauteng Provincial spokesperson. Amongst others, he produced the ANC provincial newsletter, Amandla and all other publicity material.

From 1992 to 1994 Ronnie joined the ANC’s Department of Information and Publicity where he worked as a media liaison officer.

In May 1994, following the first democratic elections, Ronnie was elected as a member of the Gauteng Provincial Legislature. He served as a member of the Housing as well as the Safety and Security Portfolio Committees. During this time he also volunteered his services to help set up the communications unit in the Office of the Premier.

From 1996 to 1998, Ronnie was the Director of the Information and Publicity unit of the ANC. During this time he, amongst others, managed the daily affairs of the Department on behalf of the NEC sub-committee on media and also served as the National Spokesperson of the ANC.

In August 1998, Ronnie was appointed as Chief Director: Communication in the office of Deputy President Thabo Mbeki. While managing the content development and media engagement portfolios, Ronnie also worked closely with the newly formed Government Communication and Information Systems (GCIS). 

When Thabo Mbeki became President of the Republic in June 1999, Ronnie assumed the position of Presidential Spokesperson. He stayed in this post for a few months before being transferred to the Department of Foreign Affairs.

In February 2000 Ronnie was appointed to head the Public Diplomacy unit at the then Department of Foreign Affairs. He was also the spokesperson for the then Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma. 

Ronnie travelled all over the world profiling South Africa’s international relations strategy and programme. 

In May 2009, Ronnie moved to the Department of Home Affairs to head the communications portfolio following the appointment of Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma as Minister of Home Affairs. He managed the internal and external communication activities of the Department. He is credited with improving the profile and reputation of the Department by contextualising its role in improving the lives of the people. 

In June 2014, Ronnie was seconded to the Presidency and appointed as Spokesperson to Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and head of the Deputy President’s communications team. 

Ronnie held this position until his passing on 22 July 2017.

Issued by The Presidency

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