This past Saturday night we all were stunned by the news of the passing of Ronnie Mamoepa a longstanding freedom fighter, ANC cadre, and ultimately a senior South African public servant that served till the end. Let me then upfront be categorical that I did not know Cadre Mamoepa closely and therefore my celebration of his life is not as a close friend but one who observed him from a distance.
Mamoepa in identity sense straddles if not obliterates the various colloquial definitions of how ANC cadres were understood in names of ‘exiles’, ‘inziles’, and ‘prisoners’. Not being too much older than some of us, Mamoepa spent time in Robben Island rendering him therefore a member of the group that spent time on the island.
At some stage of his career he was a member of the Gauteng Legislature meaning he could have become a fully fledge politician for he certainly had the credentials for such. However, it appears his first love remained that of the communications world. Most who have interacted with him and shared close proximity to him knew him as one who was always willing to accommodate others, respectful and dignified in his interactions. I would like to think that Mamoepa consciously chose to serve.
Perhaps this is one of the important lessons Mamoepa leaves behind as his legacy. He therefore at the reasonably young age of 56 at the time of his passing remained conscious of the importance of serving others, but also serving the ideals, values principles of the movement that he was raised in. His life reminds us all that selflessness is not a mythical pursuit but a conscious decision to let one’s organisation and a broader South Africa count more than personal interest.
Mamoepa with his passing in the year that OR Tambo is celebrated reminds us of the strategy and tactics document of the ANC that directs its cadres, with these noble words: “Wherever they are to be found, ANC cadres should act as the custodians of the principles of fundamental social change; winning respect among their peers and society at large through exemplary conduct. They must be informed by values of honesty, hard work, humility, service to the people and respect for the laws of the land.”
When one reads this one involuntarily accepts that Mamoepa resembles this, in a season when many older and younger than him became trapped in letting self count, he opted to remain aware of what the liberation struggle of our freedom represented and what those values imbibe.
Mamoepa in his own way teaches us that as South Africans we must treat each other with respect and dignity. Meaning as communicators in the media space, have a conscious and equal responsibility to ensure that we don’t mislead or deceive the people when we less concerned to engage content but seek to character assassinate others purely because we disagree with their views.
Mamoepa reminds us that humility is not a sign of weakness but the evidence of true character. He didn’t seek to be deployed in high office informed by a claim of struggle credentials. He was willing to build, present to assist and ever so comfortable to take a back seat. May his humility remind us all it was never about us. May it help us across all spheres of our societal expression to seek again this much-needed humility that Mamoepa displayed.
Mamoepa, perhaps for some in a less significant way models for ANC cadres the true values of being a servant to a fellow cadre not in worship of an individual but in respect for self and others.
Mamoepa therefore helps us to appreciate living together in a sense of harmony is possible if we choose to put others before us. He reminds us that we never really loose if we choose to remain loyal to a value system and principles that informed the trueness of character of those who desire the best for a common society. We all have a role to play and one’s role is not more significant than the other, nobody sacrificed more and is therefore entitled to more.
Mamoepa perhaps in simplicity asks of all of us now as always to rise above our own interest and to place that of the masses at the centre. That we collectively seek to work for the eradication of unemployment, inequality, and poverty the toxic triplets that still holds us hostage.
Certainly Mamoepa like all of us was not a perfect man. He certainly was human therefore fallible. Yet our fallibility is no excuse not to do our best to serve a greater goal. Our fallibility is never an automatic exemption not to attempt to do what is right. Our common human frailty is certainly no evidence that in us resides no common good.
As we bid farewell to another of our own, another who completed his race and finished his course, the impregnable burden remains left on us to respond at a personal, organisational and South African citizenry level, what will we do with the legacy of a Mamoepa?
For those who serve in both the ANC and SA space representing the SA Government and State, can we seek to forge relations less in a discredited enterprise of race for the totality of their common humanity, but choose to see people for their common humanity immanent in the singularity of one human race?
For those in the media space, if you want to remember Mamoepa and respect his legacy be careful when you next pen your piece, ask yourself what is my intent how does this help us get to the goal of dealing with the multiplicity of social ills that beset us?
To the immediate family, friends, and colleagues, we offer our deepest condolences as we pause to momentarily reflect on Mamoepa. Thank you for having shared your husband, father, child, and sibling with us. South Africa is richer because of the presence of a Ronnie Mamoepa. Hamba Kahle Cadre Mamoepa!
Bishop Clyde N.S. Ramalaine