JOHANNESBURG – South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has paid tribute to the longtime deputy general secretary of his ruling African National Congress party, Jessie Duarte, who died on Sunday after a long battle with cancer.
Duarte, 68, was elected to the ANC’s leadership position in 2012 and served until her medical leave of absence in November last year.
“Although our beloved comrade Jessie has been seriously ill for several months, it is difficult to understand that someone of such vitality and spirit left this earth,” Ramaphosa told mourners Sunday.
“Comrade Jessie was a loyal, devoted and extremely loyal leader of the African National Congress,” Ramaphosa said.
He commended her for her struggle for women’s rights during and after South Africa’s fight against white minority rule and the system of racial oppression known as apartheid, which ended in 1994.
“Jessie has worked tirelessly to advance the status of women in every aspect of public and private life,” said Ramaphosa.
“She confronted the patriarchal attitudes and practices aimed at reducing the role and contribution of women in parliament, government and society,” he said.
Influential roles played by Duarte include serving as spokesperson for the ANC and as Nelson Mandela’s personal assistant after he was released from prison in 1990.
She was a senior member of the ANC Women’s League and also served as South Africa’s Ambassador to Mozambique.
Duarte, a member of the ANC’s national executive committee for more than 25 years, has garnered support from rival factions within the party, leading many to label her as a unifier.
She has often been criticized for her temperamental public defense of the ANC, despite mounting evidence that many of its officials are corrupt and ineffective. A recent judicial inquiry into allegations of bribery during former President Jacob Zuma’s rule from 2009 to 2018 found significant misconduct on the part of the ANC party and some of its top officials.
In recent years, Duarte has also been criticized for her attitude towards the media, as she often publicly criticized journalists whom she saw as anti-ANC.
Some political opposition parties have praised Duarte for her role in the fight against apartheid and sent condolences to her family and the ANC.
An official Islamic rite was held for Duarte at Westpark Cemetery in Johannesburg, where she was buried on Sunday. An official memorial service will be held later this week.
Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed without permission.
https://www.local10.com/news/world/2022/07/17/leading-official-of-south-africas-ruling-anc-party-dies/ Leading official of South Africa’s governing ANC party dies