This is a great loss – Ramaphosa on Mamoepa's death

2017-07-23 01:00
Spokesperson Ronnie Mamoepa and Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa. (GCIS)

Spokesperson Ronnie Mamoepa and Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa. (GCIS)

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Cape Town – While he served as the mouthpiece for a number of prominent public figures, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa's spokesperson Ronnie Mamoepa, who died on Saturday night at the age of 56, was a private person who did not share much about himself in the public sphere.

Ramaphosa paid a last visit on Saturday night to his bedside at a Pretoria hospital where he had spent the last month, following an operation for an undisclosed illness.

"This is a great loss to me personally, to The Presidency and government at large," Ramaphosa said after his death.

In her book Robben Island, Charlene Smith detailed Mamoepa's involvement as an ANC member during the struggle.

"Ronnie Mamoepa was a skinny kid who knew the slogans and songs by heart, and could raise his knees higher than most in the toyi-toyi," the book stated.

Growing up in Atteridgeville, he was in the thick of student protests in various townships around 1976.

"In the face of a brutal enemy we did not shy away; we stood our ground and in my mind we represented the sharpest edge of the spear of the people," he once told IOL.

At just 18, he was convicted for terrorism in 1980. 

Mamoepa served time on Robben Island between 1980 and 1985, where he met the late statesman Nelson Mandela and other stalwarts such as Walter Sisulu and Ahmed Kathrada.

In an interview with the SABC a few years ago, he said the great men were humble and shook the young arrivals' hands one-by-one.

He recalled the many hours that he and fellow prisoners spent on political education on the island. They intensely studied up on the ANC and what its role was in the liberation from apartheid.

While Mandela generally enjoyed respect from the inmates, Smith's book recalled a time when Mamoepa "ran up a prison corridor and leapt onto Mandela's back, to show that he was human, too." 

Between 2000 and 2009, he served as spokesperson for Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma when she was Home Affairs minister.

He also filled the chief communications director role for Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma before being moved to the international relations and cooperation department.

Previous roles included the head of communications for the ANC Regional Executive Committee and MPL in Gauteng.

Despite having to be on call on comment at all times, Mamoepa found the time to register for a Masters programme in International Relations at the University of Pretoria.

At one stage, Mamoepa and others led a consortium that offered to purchase the then Johncom, which owned the Sunday Times and other publications, according to the Daily Maverick.

In 2012, he lost his brother Dr Thabo Mamoepa, who also died at the age of 56.

As a former ANC member, his funeral was attended by party big-wigs, including Dlamini-Zuma, former health minister Aaron Motsoaledi and current ANC treasurer-general Zweli Mkhize.

Read more on:    anc  |  ronnie mamoepa

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