ANC Deputy Secretary General Jessie Duarte dies. She was 68. Party official reveals what killed her


The African National Congress’ Deputy Secretary General, Jessie Duarte, has passed away in the early hours of Sunday morning. The news was confirmed by the party.

Duarte was 68 years old.

In a statement, the ANC says Duarte died in the early hours of Sunday morning after a months-long battle with cancer.

She had been on medical leave since November last year. The party expressed its sadness, saying her death is a great loss, not only to her family, 'but also to the party and the country as a whole'.

The governing party has described her as a dedicated activist who strived for a united, non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous South Africa. Duarte is set to be buried on Sunday afternoon as per Muslim rites.

Details of her memorial service will be communicated in due course. She battled with cancer and had been on medical leave since November 2021. In April, Duarte spoke out against rumours that she had died, saying it was unfortunate that whoever spread those rumours would wish her dead.

Duarte was reacting after rumours were rife on social media that she had died of cancer. Duarte was the longest serving member of the ruling party’s national executive council (NEC), having been elected in 1999 under former president Thabo Mbeki’s administration. She is survived by her children, grandchildren, siblings, and extended family.

The ANC described Duarte as the matriarch and pillar of her family.

“The ANC expresses its heartfelt condolences to the Duarte, Dangor, and Whitley extended families, loved ones, and friends. She was both a tower of strength to the organisation as well as a matriarch and pillar of her family. “

“The passing of Comrade Jessie is a great loss, not only to the family but to the democratic movement and the country as a whole. As a committed internationalist and former diplomat, not only will she be mourned by South Africa, but by colleagues and comrades on the African continent and in the international progressive movement,” National Spokesperson, Pule Mabe, said in a statement.

“She dedicated her entire life to the struggle for a united, non-racial, non-sexist, democratic, prosperous, and just South Africa. A committed gender activist, she relentlessly championed the emancipation and empowerment of women. Her life and work reflected a consistent commitment to advancing the rights of the poor and marginalised.”

Duarte served as the Deputy Secretary General of the ANC since 2012 and a member of its National Executive Committee since 2002.

ANC national chairperson Gwede Mantashe said this is the worst time for the ANC to lose its deputy secretary general Jessie Duarte.

Mantashe said the governing party is going through difficulties that could be better navigated with someone like Duarte around.

"We need her more than ever before. She is a fighter, she stands for what she believes. So this time when the ANC is going through a difficult patch, it's worse," said Mantashe.

Mantashe worked with her for five years between 2012 and 2017 – when she was the deputy secretary general and he was the secretary general.

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