An Ode to Comrade Ronnie Mamoepa

Communications Minister Ayanda Dlodlo speaks at a memorial service held for the late “Dean of Government Communications” and struggle stalwart Ronnie Mamoepa.  

Mamoepa’s friend and fellow detainee, TITUS MAFOLO, remembers the larger than life character. 

Between 1975 and 1979 a reprehensible act visited the township of Atteridgeville, when several young girls disappeared, later to be discovered that they had fallen victim to a muti-killer. Years of searching yielded no results, much to the anguish of parents, relatives and the entire community.

A group of young people, barely into their teens, raided the homes of local traditional healers, in the belief that those were responsible for the disappearance of the girls. Among these young boys, driven by outrage and a sense of justice was one Ronnie Mamoepa. Arrested, but because of their almost emaciated bodies whence their bones protruded, they were given stern warnings and released into the care of their parents.

When 1976 beckoned, Ronnie, aged 15, joined his older brothers to poke power in the eye of a brutish and blood-thirsty regime. In so doing, the flower born to blush and glow, wasted its sweetness in the cold winter air of June 1976. Thus, a lifelong vocation set in a young and fashionable mind and Ronnie cast the innocence of a teenager.

In 1978 I was in a cell of Sunnyside Police Station, where the side of the sun never reached the damp and cold dungeon. A teenage voice called my name. And I asked who it was. “Ronnie, mfana wa Thabo Mamoepa. I am also detained.”

To say I was stunned is an understatement because I thought Ronnie was still a small boy. But I was wrong! Soon I saw this young lad in action: selling The Voice of the Voiceless newspaper, cajoling adults to buy Staffrider books, and when Solomon Mahlangu was sentenced to hang, harangued elders to sign Petition to save the life of freedom fighter. Accordingly, in these tentative, yet important steps, another tireless freedom fighter was born.

Arrested and imprisoned on Robben Island, Ronnie matured with each year of his incarceration. He imbibed from the great lecturers of Robben Island the theories of our revolution; and thus became himself upon his release, a good teacher of dialectical materialism and historical materialism.

And so, I speak for thousands of many comrades and friends when I say a tearful:

Adios Comrade Ronnie!

We have met and travelled together long time ago, but not so long ago!
Most importantly, throughout your political work, Comrade Ronnie you became one of our finest revolutionaries when it came to theory and practice. You chose the media as an important weapon to advance our struggle, and in time you became anexpert, and earned the badge of honour as the Dean of Communication. That you have earned my brother since we met long time ago but not so long ago!

Adios Comrade Ronnie! Adios!!

We remember you, with your photographic mind. Without political books that were not allowed in jail, you reproduced significant parts of Maurice Comfort’s Dialectical Materialism.

Emulating the teachers that used to beat the daylights out us, you refused to release some comrades who had difficulty grasping the basics in our political classes. You mocked and made fun of prison warders, much to the delight of fellow prisoners.

Adios My Brother! Adios!!

You had high ambitions for yourself. When we asked the police authorities to allow us to play music tapes, you insisted on Classical music. And when fellow comrades complained and you retorted “when freedom comes, I, Ronnie, I will be listening to classical music at State Theatre with Oliver Tambo, and you, comrades, will be listening to Bubble Gum music at Atteridgeville Hall.”

Adios Political Teacher! Adios!!

In the Youth Organisations, starting in Atteridgeville-Saulsville, in Tshwane, in the then Transvaal and indeed the entire country, you insisted that together with your peers, there was always the need to sit around the bonfire of learning and teaching; of discussions: what are Major and Inconsequential Contradictions. You got a kick out of teasing theories, assumptions and how all those are applicable to our struggle and to everyday life.

Adios the Lover of Soccer! Adios!!

We had great and lousy moments, ups and lows as our favourite Black and White attired team played with our emotions. Remember that day when you asked me that we should not talk politics? Yet when we spoke of Pirates and Bafana Bafana we became more stressed!

Adios the Dean of Communications! Adios!!

Indeed, You, the Dean of Communications, served with distinction under President Mbeki and Deputy President Zuma, Deputy President Ramaphosa, Minister Dlamini-Zuma and Premier Sexwale.
All theseseems to be Long Time Ago! But not so long ago!!

Adios Comrade Ronnie! Adios!!

When we visited you in hospital you lay still; not a sigh; not a groan escaped your body. You lay there with undisturbed serenity until you closed your well-spent life. Yet, in your stillness and serenity, you made and make our hearts ache and bleed; our minds stunned and bewildered.

Comrade Ronnie,

As you depart into the solemn shades; as you leave us to the silent continent of eternity; tell the Sages and Saints that await your arrival that there are still many among us who are prepared to defend, protect and perpetuate the Monument they have built for us;

Tell them that despite and in spite of the Termites that consistently attempt to eat away the great Edifice they have bequeathed us; this Monument would not fall, for it comes from the most cunning workmanship, with forms that are not just strong but symmetrical, beautiful and perfect.

Today, you are mourned by many, but especially those who walked with you when the path seemed shrouded in clouds of darkness, doubt and possible defeat, but who endured with you;

Of course, even those who waited for the rough road you strenuously carved to be smooth and paved, are themselves there to be crowned with your victory, your honour and your glory. And to claim all that for themselves! But in your serenity and silence you knowingly smile at each and every one of us, as we all claim for ourselves, the power and the glory for which you sacrificed your youth.

Adios Comrade Ronnie! Adios!!

This tribute first appeared in Independent Newspapers 

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