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ANC’s Jessie Duarte has died

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ANC’s Jessie Duarte has died

ANC Deputy Secretary-General Jessie Duarte (Photo: Gallo Images/Sharon Seretlo)

Yasmin ‘Jessie’ Duarte, the ANC’s long-serving Deputy Secretary-General, died early on Sunday morning after a battle with cancer. Duarte was known for being outspoken and for not shying away from the official line. Tributes on social media have described her a fierce, tough and a deeply committed activist.

Jessie Duarte was born on 19 September in 1953 in Newclare, Johannesburg, and was one of nine children. She attended school in Coronationville, Johannesburg, and completed matric at Coronationville Secondary School.

Her political career started in 1979 when struggle stalwart Albertina Sisulu, wife to former ANC deputy president Walter Sisulu, recruited her to establish women’s structures throughout the country. She served as an activist in various organisations including the Federation of Transvaal Women, a United Democratic Front (UDF) affiliate.

Cyril Ramaphosa, then South Africa’s deputy president and newly elected president of the African National Congress party (ANC), left, embraces Jesse Duarte, newly elected deputy secretary general of the African National Congress party (ANC), during the 54th national conference of the African National Congress party in Johannesburg, South Africa, on Monday, Dec. 18, 2017. (Photo: Waldo Swiegers / Bloomberg via Getty Image)

This is when she was given the opportunity to work with anti-apartheid activist Reverend Beyers Naudé to set up and administer a scholarship fund to educate and skill ANC and UDF activists. Duarte’s activism led to her detainment without trial in 1988. However, she was released and placed under restriction orders until the State of Emergency was lifted.

She rose to the ranks of the ANC’s top structures when she was elected to serve on the Gauteng Provincial Executive Committee (PEC) in 1990, following the party’s unbanning. Duarte was a personal assistant to both former ANC President Nelson Mandela and Walter Sisulu until 1994. 

The dawn of democracy saw Duarte rise to the position of MEC for Safety and Security in Gauteng. However her love for the ANC always drew her back to Luthuli House. 

She was elected to the ANC National Executive Committee in 1997, which paved a way for her to be appointed as ambassador to Mozambique two years later.

Upon her return from her term as ambassador, she was appointed as national spokesperson for the ANC. Then she became Chief Operations Officer for the Presidency until she resigned in April 2010. Duarte was the Deputy Secretary-General of the ANC since the 53rd National Conference in Mangaung, in December 2012.

The ANC has sent heartfelt condolences to her family, loved ones and  friends. She is survived by her children, grandchildren, siblings and extended family. 

iec results operation centre duarte
The ANC Deputy Secretary-General Jessie Duarte at a media briefing at the IEC Results Operations Centre on 3 November 2021 in Tshwane. (Photo: Shiraaz Mohamed)

ANC mourns Duarte’s passing

In a statement issued by ANC spokesperson Pule Mabe in the early hours of Sunday, he described Duarte as a dedicated cadre of the movement.

“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,” Mabe said. 

Duarte will be buried on Sunday afternoon in Johannesburg according to Muslim rites. The burial will take place at Westpark Cemetery. DM

Daily Maverick will publish reflections later today and tomorrow.

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All Comments 5

  • While to country was being raped by Zuma and his puppet masters, she toed the party line. Should we care or just breath a sigh of relief?

  • As someone who did not know her personally, I can’t say anything about her personal life or relationships, but what I do know is that she led South Africa to the brink of oblivion. Heaven protect us from well-meaning people.

  • Certainly one of the staunchest defenders of the state capture criminals. I’m afraid that taints all the good things she may have done in the past. She destroyed her own legacy right at the end.

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