COSATU 1st Deputy President Mike Shingange: Message of Support at the Former ANC Deputy Secretary General Jessie Duarte’s  Anniversary Memorial

Programme Director,

The family of the late DSG,

Leadership of the ANC, COSATU and the SACP,

Comrades and friends,

Whilst we are gathered here today with a heavy heart to remember our late leader, sister and comrade, Jessie, we should seek to reflect on the many alarm bells that she often raised at our short comings if we are to do justice to the many sacrifices and contributions that the late DSG made over her life.

First we must thank the Duarte and Dangor families for sharing their daughter, mother, sister and partner with the liberation movement for so many years. This was a sacrifice experienced by so many families. Without such selfless generosity it would have taken many more years to achieve our liberation. We will always be indebted to you.

Jessie was known for being forthright. She would call a spade a spade. She did so out of honesty and to force us to do better. She was not entertained by hearing comrades quote slogans. She wanted to know what were you doing to fix the problem. When we raised issues with her about the plight of workers, she would phone back in a matter of hours reporting on what she had done and who she had called to resolve the issue. She viewed herself as a servant of the poor and the working class. She was pained by how little so many of our deployees care about the masses.

Comrade Jessie led a life that reflected the tapestry of our struggle and the nation. She served the movement in countless positions, on the ground in the United Democratic Front which we will soon commemorate the 40th anniversary of its launch, to her final deployment as the DSG of the ANC.

She served in many positions in government from MEC for Safety in Gauteng to our High Commissioner in Mozambique. Her life was a remarkable journey for a young girl who grew up in Westbury and Newclare during the darkest days of Apartheid. Her family and we should be proud of her achievements. 

Our late DSG raised a fundamental matter in her final years and we have failed to act on her call. She correctly reprimanded all of us for allowing this movement which laid the foundation for this non-racial democracy to quietly abandon it at times.

It was the Communist Party of South Africa which was the first non-racial party in South Africa and produced formidable giants in the struggle such as Joe Slovo and Braam Fischer. The ANC followed suit at Morogoro and Kabwe and opened the doors to all races, producing giants such as Basil February and Frene Ginwhala. The founding General Secretary of COSATU was Jay Naidoo with many unions led by illustrious comrades such as Ebrahim Patel and Liz Abrahams.

Today increasingly we not only struggle to elect leaders of all races across the movement, we are rapidly losing the support we once enjoyed in minority communities from Kimberly to Durban, from Atlantis to Nelson Mandela Bay. Jessie correctly warned us that this failure to constantly invest in the nation building project would not only weaken the democratic movement but also the nation as a whole.

If we want to do justice to the memory of our late DSG, then let’s take up her call. It’s not a mechanical question of electing so many people of various races, which is important, but most importantly to be on the ground in Westbury, in Clermont and Chatsworth, in Springbok, in Ventersdorp and Mannenberg.

We need to be seen to addressing the issues of workers of all races, the challenges affecting all of our communities. We should stop abandoning such communities to those parties who thrive on racial divides.

The struggle is a journey, we should not abandon it when it becomes tough or when we are insulted. Jessie did not do so and she continued to raise uncomfortable truths till her end.

Let us follow in her steps and continue the path she set for us.

Thank you. Matla!