Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa says he visited veteran communicator and ANC stalwart Ronnie Mamoepa in hospital three hours before his death on Saturday.
“This is a great loss to me personally, to the presidency and government. Ronnie was always so full of life, so easy to approach and communication was in his blood. He was one of the most visionary communicators we ever had in government as well as in the ANC.
“I saw him three hours before he passed away and we knew that he was not going to make it. But I said farewell to him and wished him the peace that his situation comes with,” Ramaphosa said yesterday.
Mamoepa’s untimely death a touch before midnight on Saturday shocked the country, prompting widespread tributes. As government’s longest-serving communicator, Mamoepa’s dedication as a seasoned spokesperson and public servant had been celebrated by his peers.
The Thabo Mbeki Foundation yesterday described Mamoepa as the “dean of government communications”.
“One of the many qualities which those who knew Comrade Ronnie will miss about him was his keen sense of humour and ability to communicate vital truths in jest.
“The ANC, government and the people of South Africa have lost a loyal cadre, a dedicated civil servant and a model fellow citizen,” the foundation said.
Mamoepa succumbed to complications following a stroke he suffered five weeks ago. He had been hospitalised in Pretoria and was receiving treatment.
The 56-year-old veteran was Ramaphosa’s spokesperson at the time of his death.
President Jacob Zuma and Ramaphosa expressed sadness at Mamoepa’s passing. Ramaphosa, who paid Mamoepa several visits in hospital during his time there, said he would miss him greatly.
Mamoepa’s family confirmed his passing just before midnight on Saturday evening.
“The Mamoepa family are asking the people of South Africa to join them in prayer as they come to terms with the untimely loss of Ronnie,” said family spokesperson Groovin Nchabeleng.
The ANC said Mamoepa would be remembered for his “humility, diligence and excellence”.
“Comrade Ronnie was a critical component of a notable corps of political communicators who consolidated and strengthened the work of the ANC’s department of information and publicity.
“These comrades were communicators par excellence who intrinsically understood the importance of the nexus between ideological work and the project of democratic consolidation.
“They spoke of a people’s movement that would forever represent the aspirations of the masses,” the ANC said in a statement.
Mamoepa joined the liberation struggle in his teens during the 1970s and found himself in and out of prison for his political activism.
At 18, he was jailed on Robben Island where he served a five-year sentence from 1980 to 1985. The DA hailed Mamoepa for his “commendable work as a public servant”.