She was undergoing treatment for cancer and had been on medical leave since Nov. 2021. Duarte, once a personal assistant to Nelson Mandela and Walter Sisulu, had been serving as ANC Deputy Secretary since 2012, a position in ANC's "Top Six."
She was appointed as the acting secretary following the suspension of Ace Magashule in May 2021. "She was both a tower of strength to the organization as well as a matriarch and pillar of her family," the ANC said.
“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,” ANC spokesperson Pule Mabe said, as reported by India Today.
“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,” Mabe added.
Palestine has lost a true activist! �� Comrade Jessie Duarte’s name on the apartheid wall - Westbank, Palestine. pic.twitter.com/59UGQ6Mae6
“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 the international progressive movement.”
Duarte will be buried Sunday afternoon in Johannesburg according to Muslim rites. Various political parties have sent their condolences to her family, including major opposition parties Democratic Alliance and Economic Freedom Fighters. During her lifetime, Duarte also stood out for her tireless solidarity with the Palestinian cause.
"The Israeli state needs to understand we cannot be their friend when they are raining bombs on the people of Palestine. They can't expect us to be sympathetic and have a friendship with people who do not respect human rights... Israel must recognize the rights of the people of Palestine to their land and freedom,” she said in 2021.
Today is the birthday of Joe Slovo, legendary Communist leader in South Africa.