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GCIS media centre named after #RonnieMamoepa

TSHWANE, JULY 26 – Communications Minister Ayanda Dlodlo announced on Wednesday that the Government Communication and Information System’s (GCIS) Pretoria media centre has been named after the late anti-apartheid activist and veteran spokesperson Ronnie Mamoepa.

“Let us get to work and together build the nation of our collective dreams. Rest in peace my comrade, my friend and my fellow fighter. You will be solely missed,” Dlodlo said at a memorial service held at the GCIS in Pretoria.

“We will remember that every time, and especially when we walk into the GCIS media centre, which will now be called the Ronnie Mamoepa media centre.”

President Jacob Zuma has declared a Special Provincial Official Funeral for Mamoepa, who died in Pretoria on Saturday after suffering a stroke last month.

Zuma hailed Mamoepa as a “highly regarded government communicator, accomplished public servant and freedom fighter”.

Mamoepa had worked as spokesman and head of communications for the first post-apartheid Gauteng premier, Tokyo Sexwale, between 1994 and 1996. He later served as a Chief Director: Communication and spokesman to former President Thabo Mbeki and Zuma, who was deputy president at the time, before becoming foreign ministry spokesman.
In 2014, Mamoepa was seconded to the Presidency by the department of home affairs and became spokesman for Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, a position he held until his death.
Zuma has ordered that the national flag be flown at half-mast at every flag station in Gauteng on Saturday, the day of Mamoepa’s funeral.
At the memorial service on Wednesday, Dlodlo used words including “sedulous, efficient, productive, committed, diligent, industrious, assiduous, and tireless” to pay tribute to Mamoepa.
“Cheerful, chirpy, contented, delectable, enraptured, exuberant, humourous, invigorating, mirthful, wacky, zingy and just plain pleasant, the list to describe his infectious character and approach to life does not even begin to do justice to describe Ronnie’s character,” she said.
Home Affairs Director-General Mkuseli Apleni spoke of fond memories and how Mamoepa was instrumental in changing the public perception of the department.
“We became even closer when together we joined Home Affairs in 2009 after the general elections. It was then the days of ‘horror affairs.’ The most observant among us noted how hard it is to address Ronnie otherwise. It is simply and adoringly Ronnie, as he wanted it to be. Not Mr Mamoepa, or DDG, even in his position as Communications Deputy Director-General at Home Affairs, from 2011. He wouldn’t accept any title. He preferred to be called ‘Ronnie’,” said Apleni.
“An important lesson for me is how he handled the media. He had this ability to understand the product itself, whether a birth or an immigration issue. And he understood different segments of his audience. Thus he was able to come up with a communication strategy befitting the particular grouping. Hence he was able to come up with various channels of communication, effective and tailor-made for the task at hand.”
Apleni said Mamoepa also emphasised honesty, in the message he delivered to South Africans through various forms including media briefings.
“The beauty of it all was in the fact that there should be no room for a ‘spin’, for dishonesty, or at worst, for a lie. You could see he learnt from the best. He was quite clear on the role of the media, understanding that media questions must be answered, with all honesty and integrity. This is to disseminate information to the people, through the media, a powerful medium for distributing information to the populace,” he said.
“It takes two to tango. He wanted feedback on communication efforts, and thus, for him, media monitoring was critical, to test the impact of the communication drive. This is another important lesson I learnt from Ronnie. When I need the media, I trust the media would be there. But reciprocity, like content, is king. Equally, we have a duty as government officials to avail ourselves to the media; to respond to media inquiries.”
Journalists and media liaison officers paid tribute to the late anti-apartheid activist and veteran spokesperson Ronnie Mamoepa at a memorial service held at the Government Communication and Information System in Pretoria on Wednesday.

“Ronnie understood his role very well, that of being the conduit between the media and his principal. He executed that job with aplomb. Ronnie was not a gatekeeper, he was a facilitator. He did not make the news, he delivered the news. Well, some of us did make the news, accidentally so,” said Tshwane executive director for strategic communication Selby Bokaba.

“Ronnie represented what I call old school of communication. There was nothing superlative about him, he just stuck to the basics. He comprehended the symbiotic relationship between the media and government. He understood that we needed the media, in as much as the media needed us.”

Bokaba said unlike some media liaison officers, Mamoepa understood that he was purely a communication officer, not a bodyguard for the government officials he worked with.

“Some of our contemporaries today have become spokesperson cum close protection officers, also known as bodyguards. They do things that are foreign to the communication craft. They do things that obstruct the media from carrying out their duties. They even obstruct themselves and their principals from carrying out their duties. It is not the duty of a spokesperson to block a camera from recording. It’s not your job,” said Bokaba.

South African National Editors Forum’s media freedom sub-committee chairperson Sam Mkokeli described Mamoepa as “a very special gentleman”.

“He never allowed his frustrations with the media, when we got things wrong – as we sometimes do, to get in the way of the message. His other tool was his knowledge level. We all, in the media, have had the opportunity to drink from his well of wisdom. He could hold his own on important matters, on public policy – from economic development to foreign relations,” said Mkokeli.

“He was very sharp, yet very patient. He raised the bar in terms of public service. He gave us a benchmark to measure ourselves and our colleagues on the other side of the communications divide. But Ronnie was not a populist, and he was not a groupie. His job was never to handle social media accounts of his principals. His job was never to run around behind politicians … carrying their handbags … shielding them from public scrutiny. He was never a gatekeeper. He gave us great access to the politicians he served.”

Mamoepa’s family has announced details of the official memorial service.

“Arrangements are being finalised for the official memorial service which will be held at the Tshwane Events Centre in Souter Street, Pretoria West, at 10am on Thursday. The funeral service will be held at the St Alban’s (Anglican) Cathedral on Nana Sita Street in the Pretoria CBD at 7am on Saturday,” family spokesperson Groovin Nchabaleng in a statement.

“Mr Mamoepa will be buried at Zandfontein Cemetery to the west of the Pretoria CBD.”

President Jacob Zuma has declared a Special Provincial Official Funeral for Mamoepa, who died in Pretoria on Saturday after suffering a stroke last month.
Zuma hailed Mamoepa as a “highly regarded government communicator, accomplished public servant and freedom fighter”.

In a statement, the Presidency said Mamoepa, a former Member of the Gauteng Provincial Legislature, had became actively involved in the struggle for freedom and democracy at a very young age, which led to his arrest by apartheid security forces and a five-year prison sentence on Robben Island while still in his teens.

“He will fondly and forever be remembered for his humour and humility as well as the sterling work he displayed during his extensive spell in government where he served various government departments and political principals as spokesperson with distinction until his untimely death,” the Presidency said.

Mamoepa had worked as spokesman and head of communications for the first post-apartheid Gauteng premier, Tokyo Sexwale, between 1994 and 1996. He later served as a Chief Director: Communication and spokesman to former President Thabo Mbeki and Zuma, who was deputy president at the time, before becoming foreign ministry spokesman.

In 2014, Mamoepa was seconded to the Presidency by the department of home affairs and became spokesman for Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, a position he held until his death.

Zuma has ordered that the national flag be flown at half-mast at every flag station in Gauteng on Saturday, the day of Mamoepa’s funeral.

– African News Agency (ANA)

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