Ronnie Mamoepa, a legendary public servant

Friday, July 28, 2017
By: 
More Matshediso

A giant tree may have fallen in the field of government communication but the legendary Ronnie Mamoepa’s legacy will forever live in those he mentored and worked with.

This is how the former chairperson of the African Union Commission, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, paid tribute to Mamoepa at his official memorial service on Thursday.

A long serving communicator, Mamoepa has worn many different hats in government, one of those being Home Affairs spokesperson during Dlamini Zuma’s tenure as Minister at the department. Mamoepa is credited with being the man who almost single-handedly changed the face of communication at the department, which had often come under fire for not being adequately public facing.

Dlamini Zuma was among hundreds of mourners gathered at Tshwane Events Centre for Mamoepa’s  Memorial Service.

Mamoepa passed away on Saturday, 22 July at a Pretoria hospital, leaving a palpable sadness across the nation. At the time of his death, Mamoepa was the spokesperson to Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa.

His long-spanning career saw him serve in many departments in democratic South Africa, including the office of the late President Nelson Mandela.

Dlamini Zuma expressed her heartfelt condolences to the Mamoepa family, saying they ought to be proud of his astounding contribution to the public service.

“He communicated well. He didn’t wait to be told what is to be communicated but he ensured that he knew the department and its players, as well as its policies. He was on top of the policies so that he would communicate at all times what he had to.

“He communicated during difficult times and in good times,” said Dlamini Zuma.

Dlamini Zuma had known Mamoepa before 1994 but she got to know him even better when she worked with him for over a decade at the Department of Foreign Affairs.

She then got deployed to the Department of Home Affairs while it was dubbed the “Department of Horror Affairs” by the public, something Mamoepa was instrumental in turning it around.

“It was a very difficult time, and I asked him to come with me… We needed to improve the department. Because of the challenges that were there, Ronnie was able to bring up his creativity and innovation. He worked beyond the normal communications means. He worked with different generations,” said Dlamini Zuma.

She said Mamoepa never failed, and if he wanted something, it got done. What made working with Mamoepa pleasurable for Dlamini Zuma was that he was not only a communicator but a comrade and a revolutionary, with whom she could discuss things.

A man of many talents

Many speakers referred to Mamoepa’s intelligence and generosity, which are qualities they undoubtedly believe will keep his legacy alive.

Government communicator Nomfanelo Kota remembered Mamoepa as a proud patriot.

“He loved South Africa and its citizens, and he wanted us to show that love through our work. Ronnie’s work was about serving the people of our country. He loved people. He was generous.

“He expected a lot from us… There were no weekends, there were no holidays, there was no Christmas, and it was only work and more work. We took him away from his family. He invested in a lot of government communicators, who today occupy various positions in government. We will miss him,” said Kota.

Loving father and husband

Most speakers recalled his high work ethic, sense of humour and generosity, but his family, especially the children, spoke of a loving father.

His two sons paid homage to a stern yet humorous teacher, who entrenched in them discipline and the commitment to doing things in an orderly fashion.

His daughter, who could not hold back her tears, said she loved the way her father loved her mother.

“One thing that I want to thank my father for is loving my mom. He showed us what love is and we could even see it through the way he loved her.

“He would come home… with two [ice creams] and we would ask him [whose they are] and he would say, ‘[it’s for] me and your mom’, and we would ask ‘what about the kids in the house’? The way he loved my mom… I loved him for that.

“He gave us a home. He gave us safety and education…” she said.

Former President Kgalema Motlanthe spoke as Mamoepa’s mentor and fellow Robben Islander. Mamoepa was the youngest Robben Island prisoner, having started his journey of being an activist and freedom fighter at the age of 15.

“Indeed, it is not often that individuals who make history at a very tender age will rise the way he did… It was almost as if his life was purposed to make maximum impact in a very short period of time before he transitions to the other dimension…”

The Former President said Mamoepa loved to read and was always the last one to sleep in the cell that they shared.

“I ended up assuming the responsibility of waking him up before the morning, as he was a heavy sleeper due to his habit of sleeping after everybody else, always in the wee hours of the morning.” - SAnews.gov.za

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