Former SABC acting chief executive Phil Molefe paid tribute to long-time government spokesperson Ronnie Mamoepa as a candid journalist and skilled government communicator at an official funeral taking place in Pretoria on Saturday morning.
"It was [a] brief candle because we had expected Ronnie to live much longer. He was a communicator par excellence. Ronnie could convince even the hardened editors not only to write a story, but to get that story as a lead story," said Molefe.
Mamoepa died on July 22 at the age of 56, after complications arising from a stroke.
The funeral is currently taking place at the St Alban's Cathedral in the Pretoria city centre.
It is being attended by a number of dignitaries, including President Jacob Zuma, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, ex-president Thabo Mbeki and former AU commission chair Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.
Speaking to Mamoepa's family, Molefe said: "It's been six agonising weeks and every day you were hoping for a miracle, a miracle that Ronnie would bounce back... it was never to be."
Molefe, a friend and former editor of Mamoepa's, said he came from a "special breed of media", anchored in the alternative press of the 1980s.
He also gave some insight into Mamoepa's sense of humour.
Speaking of a time when their newspaper was trying to get an article about the release of ANC leader Govan Mbeki, and an interview with Harry Gwala published, he said: "We spent a night at the Kensington Inn. In the morning, when we were served breakfast – Ronnie loved his food – the bacon was not well prepared and the eggs didn't look good.
"Ronnie said to the lady who appeared to be the owner of the place, 'Madam, we are from the Hotel Board, how many stars is your hotel?'.
"This lady said 'Two stars' and Ronnie said 'We are taking one star today and tomorrow if the breakfast is like this, we will take another star'."
Paul Mashatile, the chairperson of the ANC in Gauteng, called Mamoepa a "brother, a friend, a comrade and a committed cadre of our movement".
"I am reminded of comrade Ronnie's selflessness not only in the struggle, but also for me personally as he would drive all the way from Atteridgeville where he stayed to Alexandra to pick me and Obed Bapela up to work, and later he would drop us off in his car," said Mashatile.
"At no stage would comrade Ronnie complain, but he would always do it with his broad smile. When he was late and I called him, he would always disarmingly say: "Kea tla, ke tseleng Morwarre (I am on my way my, brother)."
Ramaphosa will deliver the eulogy later on Saturday. Mamoepa had served as Ramaphosa's spokesperson since 2014. -- News24