Thuli Madonsela is a South African advocate and professor of law. She is the chair social justice at the Stellenbosch University and the founder of the Thuma Foundation – an independent democracy, literacy and leadership support organisation.
Also, for seven years, Thuli served as South Africa’s Public Protector between 2009 – 2016. And, she was one of the experts who drafted the South African final constitution in 1996.
Globally, Thuli is known for highlighting the importance of accountability, social justice and democracy in pursuit of peace.
Thuli Madonsela Background
Thulile Nomkhosi Madonsela was born on September 28, 1962, in Johannesburg. She grew up in Soweto and attended Evelyn Baring High School, Nhlangano, Swaziland. She earned a BA in Law from the University of Swaziland in 1987, and an LLB from the University of the Witwatersrand in 1990.
For some time, she was a single mother of two after the demise of her husband. However, in July 2018, she got engaged to Dick Foxton, a public relations consultant. Now, she is also a grandmother.
Thuli Madonsela Career
In 1980, she began her career as an assistant teacher at the Evelyn Baring High School, Swaziland. Then, in 1982, she became an assistant teacher at Naledi High School in Soweto. Also, in 1984, she worked as a legal and education officer at Printing Wood & Allied Workers Union.
In addition, in the 1980s, she worked for trade unions both in the public and private sectors. In 1994 -1995, she was one of the eleven experts who drafted the final constitution of South Africa, promulgated by former President Nelson Mandela in 1996.
Similarly, in 2007, she was appointed by President Thabo Mbeki as a full-time member of the South African Law Reform Commission. Then, in 2009, she was appointed Public Protector of SA by president Jacob Zuma for a non-renewable seven-year term with unanimous support from the multi-party National Assembly. The tenure ended in 2016, and from 2018 to date, she holds a chair in social justice at Stellenbosch University.
Thuma – The Thuli Madonsela Foundation
Thuli is the founder and chief patron of the Thuma Foundation. It is a democracy, literacy and leadership support foundation with focus on leadership approach that is ethical, purposeful, impactful and committed to service.
The initiative was borne out of Thuli’s passion about democracy with the belief that the subject is under a global threat. Therefore, the foundation centers on five areas which are; dialogue, advocacy, accessibility, research and training.
Firstly, it will facilitate democracy dialogues to foster participation, a shared and adaptive understanding of democracy to reduce extremism. Also, it will engage in advocacy including legal advice to catalyse peaceful democracy deepening social change. It will foster equitable access to developmental services and resources by linking disadvantaged communities and groups to available fruits of democracy.
Then, it will provide a research platform and outputs on monitoring democratic processes while contributing to adapting understanding of democracy to 21st-century challenges.
Lastly, it will provide civic leadership training to empower particularly young people to lead community development while becoming ready to lead ethically and responsibly in broader democracy.
Awards and Recognition
In 2014, Time Magazine listed Thuli as one of the most influential people in the world. Besides, she is also a Paul Harris Fellow, a part of 2016 Tallberg Global Leader, and a recipient of other global awards. Some of which are;
- South African Person of the Year, Daily Maverick, 2011
- Honorary Doctorate, University of Fort Hare, 2013
- 100 most influential people in the world, Time Magazine, 2014
- Woman of Courage, Glamour Women of the Year, 2014
- South African of the year, ANN7, 2014
- Integrity Award, Transparency International, 2014
- Honorary Doctor of Laws Degree LL.D, University of Stellenbosch, 2015
- Doctor of Laws degree, LL.D. (Honoris Causa), University of Cape Town, 2015
- Honorary Doctorate from Rhodes University, 2015
- ACFE Africa Advocacy Award, Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, 2015
- FW de Klerk Goodwill Award, 2016
- African Person of the Year, Forbes 2016
- One of the BBC’s 100 Women, 2016
- German Africa Prize, 2016
- Truth and Justice Award, The Law Society of South Africa, 2016
- Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany, 2018
- One of the 50 Most Powerful Women in Africa, Forbes Africa 2020
Thuli Madonsela Quotes
“I need to listen well so that I hear what is not said.”
“More people are gravitating towards nationalism and extremism, and this is all because people believe democracy doesn’t work for them.”
“…it’s not in the nature of democracy to exclude, real democracy is inclusive.”
“Without inclusiveness, social justice and participation in any democracy, peace is an illusion…”
“Things look harder than they seem before you start, the middle does get messy, but if you stay on, things eventual workout.”
“…if people can understand the concept of democracy, they can influence what is planted in this democracy.”
“When things are not going well, people tend to view any change as a good change. It gives people hope that this might be better than yesterday.”
“Inequality is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, inequality creates fractures but on the other hand, inequality undermines our ability to progress.”
“Integrity is the hidden dimension to ethics.”
“Just do the right thing because it is the right thing to do.”
“Compromising your integrity means putting everything you have ever worked for at risk.”
Lessons From The Life Of Thuli Madonsela
As a Public Protector, Thuli challenged authorities on situations especially on the public’s attempt to undermine the rule of law. For instance, her investigation into the Nkandla Scandal won a groundbreaking victory in the Constitutional Court. The result led to President Jacob Zuma being held accountable to pay back for the improper state spending at his private home in Nkandla, KwaZulu-Natal Province, SA.
Basically, she has a global reputation for integrity and fearlessness in enforcing accountability and justice in the exercise of public power and the use of public resources.
Let Passion Be Your Drive
Whatever we have achieved today, there’s always room for more. Thuli disclosed that being educated and being welcomed into the space where she can make a difference is enough drive for her. She believes that educated and high-profiled people in the society should be bearers of hopes and dreams of others. And, since she falls into this category, she is willing to pass on that blessing to others.
Apart from discharging her duties fairly. Her position today has also fueled her passion and has led her to create the Thuma Foundation – an organisation that focuses on democracy, leadership, and social justice.
Despite pressures from South Africans for Thuli to venture into politics, she has refused to heed the masses’ advice. According to her, she feels better assisting and advising people to ensure justice.
Over time, she has tried to adjudicate, conciliate and mediate to get people to do the right thing. To her, she feels if you want a world that is peaceful then justice, particularly social justice is something that we must all work for.
As a result, she’s happy doing what she prefers to do without external influence.
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