Jessie Duarte: A revolutionary dynamite

18 July 2022

President Cyril Ramaphosa has hailed the late struggle stalwart, ambassador and ANC Deputy Secretary General, Yasmin “Jessie” Duarte, as a faithful, dedicated and fiercely loyal leader – a revolutionary dynamite. Although Duarte has been gravely ill for several months, the President said that it is difficult to comprehend that someone with such vitality and such spirit has departed this earth.

The President was delivering a eulogy at the funeral service of Duarte who succumbed to a battle with cancer at the age of 68 in the early hours of Sunday morning.

Duarte, who was accorded a special official funeral Category 2, was laid to rest on Sunday afternoon, according to Muslim rites at the Westpark Cemetery in Johannesburg.

She served as South Africa’s Ambassador to the Republic of Mozambique between 1999 and 2003 and was a long-time anti-apartheid activist who served as Special Assistant to former President Nelson Mandela and struggle stalwart, Walter Sisulu.

At the time of her untimely passing, Daurte served as the Deputy Secretary General and Acting Secretary General of the African National Congress (ANC).

“For close on 10 years, she served as ANC Deputy Secretary General. For 25 years, she served on its National Executive Committee. Moreover, from the years of her youth to her final days, she served the people of South Africa with dedication, with humility and with a passion that is all too rare. She worked alongside great leaders of our struggle,” the President said.

President Ramaphosa said that throughout her life, Duarte was an organiser who mobilised women across the country to resist the restrictions imposed upon them by a racist and sexist political system and a patriarchal society.

“We remember the courage with which she spoke against the abuse of women not just by the apartheid security forces, but within the ranks of the liberation movement itself.

“Even in the democratic era, Jessie was relentless in advancing the position of women in all areas of public and private life,” he said.

The President said that she confronted the patriarchal attitudes and practices that sought to diminish the role and contribution of women in Parliament, in government and across society.

The President said that Duarte worked alongside great leaders of our struggle and learned the politics of liberation from leaders like Mama Albertina Sisulu, Oom Beyers Naudé and Madiba.

From them, he said, she imbibed the qualities of revolutionary leadership, qualities that she was able to demonstrate in every position she occupied.

Despite the great qualities she learnt, the President said she always found a way to mix the qualities with her own dynamism.

“As we worked with her we have gotten to realise the truism in the saying ‘dynamites come in small packages’.

“Jessie was a typical and quintessential dynamite, she was small, short and well packaged as a revolutionary dynamite,” he said.

Speaking about the attributes she possessed, the President said that Duarte was a unifier who was always teaching, organising, mobilising.

“She embodied a politics that was neither divisive, mean, nor small. Her politics were empowering and unifying. She understood the immense power of a united people and a united movement,” the President said.

President Ramaphosa reflected that Duarte fought strongly against factionalism and disunity.

“She stood firm against those who would sow division, who were interested only in personal advancement, who pursued narrow interests to the neglect of the needs of the people,” he said.

The President called on everyone in Duarte’s memory to follow her example, and strive towards unity and common purpose.

“Let us build a united nation and a united movement founded on the principles of our democratic Constitution.

“May we all strive to honour her life by doing everything within our means, sparing neither strength nor courage, to achieve the free, united and equal society for which she so gallantly fought,” the President said. –