Adi*s Amigo, Ronnie, the Road You Travelled Has Come to an End

Cape Times (South Africa), July 25, 2017 | Go to article overview

Adi*s Amigo, Ronnie, the Road You Travelled Has Come to an End


BETWEEN 1975 and 1979, a reprehensible act was committed in the township of Atteridgeville, when several young girls disappeared. It would later be discovered they had fallen victim to a muti-killer. Years of searching yielded no results, much to the anguish of their parents, relatives and the community.

A group of youths - barely in their teens - raided the homes of local traditional healers in the belief that they were responsible for the girls' disappearance.

Among these young boys, driven by outrage and a sense of justice, was Ronnie Mamoepa. The emaciated youngsters were given stern warnings and released into the care of their parents.

When 1976 beckoned, Ronnie, then 15, joined his older brothers to poke a brutish and blood-thirsty regime in the eye.

In 1978, I was in a damp cell at the Sunnyside police station, where the sun never reached. A teenage voice called my name. I asked who it was. "Ronnie, mfana wa Thabo Mamoepa. I am also detained."

To say I was stunned is an understatement, because I thought Ronnie was still a small boy.

Soon I saw this young lad in action: selling The Voice of the Voiceless newspaper, cajoling adults to buy Staffrider books and, when Solomon Mahlangu was sentenced to hang, haranguing elders to sign a petition to save the life of this freedom fighter.

In these steps, another tireless freedom fighter was born.

Arrested and imprisoned on Robben Island, Ronnie matured with each year of his incarceration.

He imbibed from the great lecturers of Robben Island the theories of our revolution, and thus became himself, upon his release, a good teacher of dialectical materialism and historical materialism.

And so I speak for many comrades and friends when I say a tearful Adi*s, Comrade Ronnie, Adi*s! We have met and travelled together a long time ago, but not so long ago.

Throughout your political work, you became one of our finest revolutionaries when it came to theory and practice. You chose the media as an important weapon to advance our struggle, and in time became an expert... The doyen of communication.

Without political books that were not allowed in jail, you reproduced significant parts of Maurice Cornforth's Dialectical Materialism.

Emulating the teachers that used to beat the daylights out us, you refused to release some comrades who had difficulty grasping the basics in our political classes.

You made fun of prison warders, much to the delight of fellow prisoners.

Adi*s, My Brother, Adi*s!

You had high ambitions for yourself. When we asked the police authorities to allow us to play music tapes, you insisted on classical music. And when fellow comrades complained, you retorted: "When freedom comes, I, Ronnie..., I will be listening to classical music at the State Theatre with Oliver Tambo and you, comrades, will be listening to bubblegum pop music at Atteridgeville Hall. …

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