Saturday, October 1 2022

(Bloomberg) —

Jessie Duarte, who was former South African President Nelson Mandela’s special assistant after his release from prison, has died. She was 68 years old.

Duarte’s death on Sunday was announced by South Africa’s ruling party. She had been on sick leave since November and undergoing treatment for cancer.

“It is with deep sadness that the African National Congress learned of the passing of our Deputy General Secretary, Yasmin ‘Jessie’ Duarte,” the ANC said in a statement.

A prominent political activist during the apartheid years, Duarte held several senior positions in the government and the ANC, which seized power under Mandela in the country’s first multiracial elections in 1994. She fell ill weeks after municipal elections in which support for the ANC fell below. 50% for the first time.

Born in Johannesburg on September 19, 1953, Duarte worked as a management accountant, helped establish women’s structures for the ANC in the 1970s and 1980s, and was detained without trial. She later became a leading figure in the anti-apartheid United Democratic Front. Mandela appointed her as a special assistant when he was released from prison in 1990, a post she held until he became president.

Duarte then served as Chief Safety and Security Officer in the Central Gauteng Provincial Cabinet and spent eight years working for the Foreign Office, becoming High Commissioner to South Africa. in Mozambique. After leaving the diplomatic service in 2003, she was appointed spokesperson for the ANC and then served as chief operating officer in the presidency until her resignation in 2010.

When the party elected Jacob Zuma as its leader for a second term in 2012, Duarte was named its deputy general secretary and was seen as one of its staunchest allies. While Zuma’s nine-year term as the country’s president has been marred by corruption scandals, Duarte retained his post at the ANC after Cyril Ramaphosa succeeded him as leader in late 2017.

Duarte was appointed acting general secretary of the ANC in May 2021, when incumbent Ace Magashule was suspended pending trial on corruption charges.

©2022 Bloomberg LP

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