In a statement, the ANC said deputy secretary general Jessie Duarte died in the early hours of Sunday morning after a months-long battle with cancer.
Duarte was 68 years old.
She had been on medical leave since November last year.
The party expressed its sadness, saying her death is a great loss, not only to her family, ‘but also to the party and the country as a whole’.
ANC national chairperson Gwede Mantashe said this is the worst time for the ANC to lose Duarte.
Mantashe said the governing party is going through difficulties that could be better navigated with someone like Duarte around.
The governing party has described her as a dedicated activist who strived for a united, non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous South Africa.
Duarte is set to be buried on Sunday afternoon as per Muslim rites.
Details of her memorial service will be communicated in due course.
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