From whatever angle that Reverend Sedupe Ramokgopa’s life could be looked at, it was centered on the plight of the suffering majority.
Embodiment of empathy
Caring for the suffering was the shape of his heart whose beat kept the pace with their plight. Empathy was a gift he gave to the cause of the afflicted. Rising and falling with them, taking ownership of their dreams and nightmares. Their struggle was his struggle.
But most of all, he learned from their pain. That pain taught them to fight and taught them to win.
Quest for humanity
Believing in the quest for common humanity made Sedupe Ramokgopa recognise that the universal set of humanity is meaningless and incomplete without the liberation of the struggling black majority.
Located in this beloved southern tip of the African continent, called South Africa, this is where Ramokgopa was born on March 25 1939.
He lived the eight and half decades of his life to the full. Being a sterling chip off the block of Black Consciousness (BC). Its rootedness to the soil made him stand out as one of the land’s best loved sons and a mind to match. He was devoted to loving his land, its people, and a fight for a future that the next generations would be proud to inherit.
Every step he took was powered by the nation-building philosophy of BC. Not only did he embody the teachings of BC, but also practiced them with esteemed exemplarity.
In 1963, he obtained a BSc with physics and chemistry as majors at Rhodes University. Later he obtained a BSc honours in physics from Unisa in 1965. A masters in theoretical in solid state physics from Unisa. An MPhil in philosophy from the Saint Augustine College of South Africa – (2009-2010).
His MPhil course work included philosophy of science; philosophy of being philosophy of knowledge; philosophy of religion; African philosophy; ethics; dignity of the Human Person.
His working life landed him at Salesian High School in Manzini, eSwatini. Here he was mathematics master in ordinary and advanced levels under Cambridge University. He was co-founder and chairman of Kubobonke Cultural Organisation (1969-1973). From 1974 to 1977 he was computer programmer/system engineer at International Business Machine (IBM).
Worked with great struggle icon, Steve Biko
Call for national liberation duty saw him leave the corporate life to be executive director of the Black Community Programmes (BCP). He established its regional branch in the then Transvaal Province. BCP was the umbrella development arm of the Black Consciousness Movement. It was operating under the Black People’s Convention. Hlaku Rachidi served as its president, and Steve Biko served as its honorary president.
The BCP (TVL) programmes entailed Youth Programmeas in literacy. They also entailed home-grown Industries for Women; Outreach Mobile Clinic; and Early Childhood learning Centres. These were housed at Entokozweni Centre under the the astute stewardship of Mme Mapitso Malepa in Moletsane, Soweto.
His tenure as BCP executive director was disrupted that year with countrywide massive clampdown by security forces. The clampdown saw 18 BC organisations, two newspapers The World and Weekend World shut down. The Christian Institute’s publication, Pro Veritate too, shut down on October 19, 1977 with the rest of the above.
With the collapse of Soweto Urban Bantu council, in the wake of June 16, 1976, national student revolt, he served as one of the members of the Committee of Ten to fill up the vacuum.
Persecution by apartheid government
Ramokgopa was detained without trial for 384 days at Modder Bee Prison under section 10, of Internal Security Act in 1977-1978. He was released under banning orders and restricted to the magisterial district of Johannesburg from 1978 -1983.
As executive director of BCP, he was the registered owner of the Peugeot that Peter Jones was driving from PE to Cape Town. In the car was Steve Biko, when the two were arrested at the roadblock in Grahamstown on August 18, 1977. They were on a mission in preparation to unite the liberation movement at home and in exile. The vehicle was never returned by the state.
Champion of many causes
Ramokgopa was the champion of numerous causes and wore many hats, each with clarity of purpose. He was steeped in the philosophy of serving the BCM in different stages and capacities in the full spectrum of responsibilities. This made him a diligent apostle, committed disciple, conscious teacher. He was a conscientious practitioner in the service of the needy and the broken-hearted in the pursuit of the promise of freedom.
He is a founder member of the 70s Group, inspired by thought leaders and liberation activists of the late 1960s and 1970s. Leaders who created the consciousness to fight against racism. The 70s Group is staunchly anti-sectarian and anti-racist. It engages in a community-focused strategy in its activities to build a country of equals for common humanity.
That is the lens through which this issue-driven and task-oriented life should be appreciated.
This trailblazing wayfaring thinker and doer met his death on Friday, January 12, 2024. He leaves behind his two children he had with his late wife Thembi Ramokgopa – daughter, Dineo, and son, Tumi.
He funeral service is took place at the Anglican parish of Christ the King, 49 Ray Street, Sophiatown, today (January 18) from 8am until 11.
He will be buried at the Westpark cemetery.
- Oupa Ngwenya