Getting To Know SA’s Heroine – Thuli Madonsela
Former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela will always be known as one of the forefronts of SA’s heroes. Here are a few facts about the former Public Protector.
- Thuli was born in Johannesburg in 1962, the daughter of informal traders, Bafana and Nomasonto, and grew up in Soweto.
- She attended Evelyn Baring High School in Nhlangano in Swaziland, from where her family originates.
- She graduated with a BA in Law from the University of Swaziland in 1987, and an LLB from the University of the Witwatersrand in 1990. On 26 March, 2015, Thuli Madonsela was awarded a Doctor of Laws degree, LL.D. (Honoris causa) from the University of Stellenbosch. She was further awarded another Doctor of Laws degree, LL.D. (Honoris Causa) from the University of Cape Town. She also has an honorary doctorate from the University of Rhodes and the University of Fort Hare.
- Madonsela worked for trade unions and in both the public and private sectors from the 1980s. She was a member of the team who drafted the final constitution of South Africa promulgated by then President Nelson Mandela in 1996.
- Madonsela was appointed Public Protector by President Jacob Zuma for a non-renewable seven-year term commencing 19 October 2009, with unanimous support from the multi-party National Assembly. At the announcement of her appointment, Zuma said Madonsela ‘will need to ensure that this office continues to be accessible to ordinary citizens and undertakes its work without fear or favour’.
- Thuli likened her role as Public Protector to the Venda chief’s paternal aunt known as the makhadzi, a non-political figure who ‘gives the people a voice while giving the traditional leader a conscience’.
- Madonsela has a son and a daughter, Wantu and Wenzile, whom she raised as a single parent. Her husband died when the children were very young.
- In an interview with a local paper, she insisted that there is no point raising one’s voice. “You know I believe when you speak like this you get the message across. People listen better than when you’re screaming and shouting.”
- She turned down a cabinet position in 1994, after she was offered a position as Member of Parliament after South Africa’s first democratic elections in 1994. Twenty years later, she also said that she would have turned down an attempted nomination from the ANC as a National Assembly representative. “Politics is important but it would not be my best contribution as a human being. Doing the technical work, advising and making decisions around fairness is something I believe I do better,” she said at the time.
She has a major list of awards to add to her credentials:
2011 – Daily Maverick named her South African Person of the Year for “serving her role as an ombudsman to the exercise of executive power with unwavering commitment to truth”.
2014 – Time magazine named her one of the 100 most influential people in the world in the Leaders category and described her as “an inspirational example of what African public officers need to be”.
2014 – Glamour Women of the Year awards – named Woman of Courage
2014 – ANN7 South African of the Year
2014 – Transparency International Integrity Award
2015 – Doctor of Law (honoris causa), University of Fort Hare (2013), Stellenbosch University (March), Rhodes University (April) and University of Cape Town (June)
2016 – FW de Klerk Goodwill Award
2016 – Forbes African Person of the year
2016 – Chosen as one of the BBC’s 100 Women
2016 – German Africa Prize