Thuli Madonsela just won’t ‘thula’

Thuli Madonsela was recognised as the decade's individual Driver of Change.

Thuli Madonsela was recognised as the decade's individual Driver of Change.

Advocate Thuli Madonsela was the winner of the Drivers of Change Individual Award in 2011, just two years into her seven-year term as public protector.

She continued working to hold the public sector accountable as an outspoken voice for justice during the remaining five years of her term.

In 2016 she was vindicated by the Constitutional Court’s unanimous judgement that her office’s report on security upgrades to President Jacob Zuma’s homestead was binding, and that Zuma and the National Assembly had failed to uphold the country’s Constitution. The court ordered the National Treasury to determine the amount that Zuma should pay back and ordered him to do so within 45 days of the court’s approval of the National Treasury report.

Her work on the State of Capture report just before her term of office ended further challenged the executive, although her successor has to date done little to implement her recommendations.

She was named South African Person of the Year by Daily Maverick in 2011, and in 2014 Time magazine named her one of the 100 most influential people in the world.
That year also saw her named Glamour magazine’s Woman of Courage and ANN7’s South African of the Year, and she received Transparency International’s Integrity Award.

In 2016 she was named Forbes African Person of the Year, she won the FW de Klerk Goodwill Award, and the German Africa Prize. She has four honorary doctorates in law from University of Fort Hare, Stellenbosch University, Rhodes University and University of Cape Town. She was also included in the BBC100, a series that focuses on the issues and achievements of women in today’s society.

In March she will be receiving the Commonwealth Law Conference Rule of Law award in Melbourne.

“Since leaving my job as public protector,  I’ve been engaged in democracy dialogues with members of the public as a guest of various domestic and international constituencies,” says Madonsela.

“Starting with the University of Pretoria’s Thuli Madonsela Good Governance Lecture on November 2 2016, I’ve since given more than a dozen talks to local and global audiences.”

Most of the talks have been about strengthening democracy and making it work for all by ensuring good governance and social justice, fighting corruption and maintaining the rule of law.

She has also been involved in the journey of establishing the Thuli Madonsela (Thuma) Foundation with the help of Catherine Peter and a number of old friends and colleagues. The foundation is dedicated to empowering the people to deepen and defend democracy and the rule of law with a view to ensuring sustainable democracy, development and peace.

Focus areas include ethical leadership, legal empowerment, access to information and opportunities, advocacy, research and training.

“I also joined Harvard in December 2016 as an advanced leadership fellow, which meant forgoing a teaching offer at Oxford University,” she says. “The Harvard research will go towards establishing a social justice centre at Stellenbosch University, where I will take up the chair in social justice in 2018.” 

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