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 spokesperson 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 spokesperson to former President Thabo Mbeki and Zuma, who was deputy president at the time, before becoming foreign ministry spokesperson.
In 2014, Mamoepa was seconded to the Presidency by the department of home affairs and became spokesperson 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.”