The Thabo Mbeki Foundation joins the wider family of activists and the rest of the country in expressing our deepest condolences to the immediate family of Comrade Ronnie Mamoepa who passed away last night.
Comrade Ronnie was a devoted servant of the people of South Africa, having joined the struggle against apartheid in his teens in the mid-1970s. For his steadfast commitment to the cause of the people, he was imprisoned in apartheid jails, including the infamous Robben Island prison where he served from 1980 to 1985 after being convicted with eight others (the Atteridgeville Nine) at the tender age of 18 on March 12, 1980.
Upon his release from Robben Island, Comrade Ronnie immersed himself in the activities of the United Democratic Front, the South African Youth Congress and underground structures of the African National Congress (ANC). After the unbanning of the ANC in 1990, he became one of the pathfinders of the ANC’s Department of Information and Publicity and served as one of the ANC’s Spokespersons between 1990 and 1994. In 1994, Comrade Ronnie was elected to the Gauteng Provincial Legislature as one of the people’s tribunes.
Comrade Ronnie later became a senior civil servant and more specifically a communicator in The Presidency and the Departments of Foreign and Home Affairs. The longest serving government communicator at the time he died and always ready to lend a helping hand to his colleagues across government departments, Comrade Ronnie was undoubtedly the Dean of Government Communications.
One of the many qualities which those who knew Comrade Ronnie will miss about him is his keen sense of humour and ability to communicate vital truths in jest. There is a story that is told about an incident which occurred at Kgosi Mampuru II Correctional Centre, then Pretoria Central Prison, when Comrade Ronnie was detained during the 1986 – 1987 State of Emergency period.
A rather excited prison warder informed the political prisoners of an inspection visit by a senior prisons official the following day and apprised them of conduct expected of them, including a requirement to salute the visiting prisons official.
Comrade Ronnie immediately retorted and said: “We won’t salute him because we don’t belong to the same army.” The truth of the statement was not lost to the warder despite it being communicated in the characteristic jocular fashion of Comrade Ronnie. The incident illustrates the person Comrade Ronnie was – always loyal to principle and the truth – even as a political prisoner at the hands of a callous enemy. He would sustain this quality to the end. Comrade Ronnie Mamoepa eschewed pettiness, factional calculus and everything that was inimical to the cause of the people.
The ANC, the government and the people of South Africa have lost a loyal cadre, a dedicated civil servant and a model fellow citizen.
His friends, contemporaries and fellow comrades owe Comrade Ronnie a debt of broadcasting the story of his life loudly, far and wide so that it can serve as an inspiration to the current and future crop of civil servants and younger generation of activists.
Our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this difficult time.
May his soul rest in peace.
Issued by the Thabo Mbeki Foundation
July 23, 2017