“Although our beloved comrade, Jessie has been gravely ill for several months, it is difficult to comprehend that someone with such vitality and such spirit has departed this earth.
“Comrade Jessie was a faithful, dedicated and fiercely loyal leader of the ANC.
“It is difficult to imagine the ANC without our beloved DSG, and to think that we will never again hear her voice and her laughter carrying down the corridors of Luthuli House.”
Ramaphosa said she served as ANC deputy secretary-general for nearly a decade and for 25 years on its national executive committee.
“And from the years of her youth to her final days, she served the people of SA with dedication, with humility and with a passion that is all too rare. She worked alongside great leaders of our struggle.
“She learnt the politics of liberation from leaders like Mama Albertina Sisulu, Oom Beyers Naudé and Madiba.
“From them she imbibed the qualities of revolutionary leadership. Qualities that she was to demonstrate in every position she occupied.”
He said Duarte had been an organiser throughout her life, fighting for the rights of women and workers.
“She mobilised women across the country to resist the restrictions imposed upon them by a racist and sexist political system and a patriarchal society.
“Even in the democratic era, Jessie was relentless in advancing the position of women in all areas of public and private life.
“She did not hesitate to confront inadequate representation of women in the ANC itself.
“Comrade Jessie said last year that she was looking forward to writing books during her retirement.
“It is our ardent wish that the family will publish some of the work she has produced, so that future generations may draw inspiration from the record of this fine activist.”
He described her as “gracious, compassionate and always kind”.
“She never missed a beat, she was on top of every issue, she led with distinction, and she always made her voice heard.
“She also had the courage to speak out — honestly and directly — about the abuses and destructive tendencies she saw within her movement and within the democratic government. At a time like this, our nation needs more people of her courage and consciousness.
“Our nation’s thoughts and prayers are with the family at this difficult time. The nation shares in your grief.
“May you be comforted by the knowledge that the life of this great patriot has inspired us all and her contribution will never be forgotten.
“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.”
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