South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has paid tribute to the longtime deputy secretary general of his ruling African National Congress party, Jessie Duarte, who died on Sunday after a long battle with cancer.
JOHANNESBURG (AP) — 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 Sunday after a long battle with cancer.
Duarte, 68, was elected leader of the ANC in 2012 and had served until she went on sick leave in November last year.
“Although our beloved comrade Jessie has been gravely ill for several months, it is difficult to understand that someone with such vitality and spirit has left this earth,” Ramaphosa told mourners on Sunday.
“Comrade Jessie was a faithful, dedicated and fiercely loyal leader of the African National Congress,” Ramaphosa said.
He praised her for her fight for women’s rights during and after South Africa’s struggle against white minority rule and the system of racial oppression known as apartheid which ended in 1994.
“Jessie has consistently advanced the position of women in all areas of public and private life,” Ramaphosa said.
“She confronted patriarchal attitudes and practices that sought to diminish the role and contribution of women in parliament, government and society,” he said.
Some of the influential roles Duarte has played include that of spokesperson for the ANC and personal assistant to Nelson Mandela after his release from prison in 1990.
She was a leading 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 drawn support from rival factions within the party, leading many to describe her as a unifier.
She has often been criticized for her fiery public defense of the ANC, despite growing evidence that many of its officials are corrupt and ineffective. A recent judicial investigation into allegations of corruption during the reign of former President Jacob Zuma from 2009 to 2018 revealed significant wrongdoing by 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 she considered anti-ANC.
Some opposition political parties praised Duarte for his role in the fight against apartheid and sent messages of condolence to his family and the ANC.
A formal funeral in Islamic rites was held for Duarte at Johannesburg’s Westpark Cemetery where she was buried on Sunday. An official memorial service will be held later this week.