PRETORIA, July 27– Former Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma on Thursday paid tribute to her former spokesperson, the late anti-apartheid activist Ronnie Mamoepa, for his significant contribution to the transformation of the department’s image, from its days of being referred to as “horror affairs department”.
“One foreign affairs [now department of international relations] official was reminding me that it was such a pleasure to work with Ronnie because he knew that when he was preparing a statement, a speech or a press release on the area of work that you are in charge of, he would come to you and make sure that your facts are correct. He communicated during happy times and during difficult times,” Dlamini-Zuma told mourners at the official memorial service of seasoned government spokesperson in Pretoria on Thursday.
“When we got to home affairs, it was called by the public ‘horror affairs’. When I said let us go to home affairs, he said how can I communicate about IDs every day. I discussed with him what I had been told, that we needed to go to home affairs and try improve that department. Once he accepted, you could see his face lighten up.”
Dlamini-Zuma said after she joined the home affairs department with Mamoepa as her spokesperson, there came another hurdle as the then deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe also wanted Mamoepa to join him at the Presidency.
“I was shocked. But we discussed with Ronnie and agreed that we should convince the deputy president [Motlanthe] that he needs to remain at home affairs. That time, I had to be the communicator. I went to the deputy president and we discussed the challenges at home affairs, and that home affairs and the country will be served well with Ronnie at home affairs. I am forever grateful to deputy president Kgalema because he didn’t hesitate. He said I should keep Ronnie at home affairs,” said Dlamini-Zuma.
“I think at home affairs, because of the challenges that were there, Ronnie was able to bring out his creativity, his innovations and, indeed, he did. He went beyond the normal communication means. When he went to Generations [with the home affairs promotions] but when he first introduced that, we and Apleni [home affairs director general Mkuseli Apleni] said Ronnie was now out of order. He said it can be done, just imagine having eight million viewers in one night getting the message.”
Dlamini-Zuma said Mamoepa also played a pivotal role in her campaign to become African Union commission chairperson, based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
“He was in Addis even when we won, but of course I couldn’t take him to Addis because of Audrey [Mamoepa’s wife]. She had work here, but also I didn’t think Ronnie could look after himself healthwise, away from Audrey. We both agreed that he must stay here, and he stayed. Ronnie, you really served this country well,” said Dlamini-Zuma.
The charismatic Mamoepa died at the Unitas Hospital in Pretoria on Saturday. He had been admitted to the private hospital for weeks, following a stroke. He was 56. At the time of his death, Mamoepa was spokesperson for Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Representing the national executive committee of the ruling African National Congress (ANC), Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga described Mamoepa as “a great, gentle soul and an articulate communicator who represented the best comrades”.
“He leaves the movement at a time when it desperately needs its best, the most seasoned which he represented, the most developed, committed and dedicated cadres to confront the current challenges confronting our movement,” she said.
Mamoepa will be buried at Zandfontein Cemetery, west of the Pretoria CBD, on Saturday. President Jacob Zuma has declared a Special Provincial Official Funeral for Mamoepa.