On 23 May 2019, the North-West University (NWU) rewarded an experienced and well-respected individual in the field of law for the enormous role she has played in promoting democracy in South Africa, with the promotion of good governance and accountability being her first priority.
Advocate Thulisile Nomkhosi “Thuli” Madonsela was born in Soweto on 28 September 1962. She raised two children as a single mother and obtained a BA (Law) degree from the University of Swaziland and an LLB degree from the University of the Witwatersrand.
She taught at secondary schools for a number of years, then filled a position in the Paper Printing Wood & Allied Workers Union. In the 1990s she established herself in the field of applied legal studies at the University of the Witwatersrand.
Working in the Department of Justice as Chief Director Transformation and Equity, she became a technical expert in the drafting of not only the Constitution, but also other acts such as the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act, the Employment Equity Act, and the Recognition of Customary Marriages Act.
She served as a full-time member of the South African Law Reform Commission for the period 2007 to 2009, and filled the position of the third Public Protector of South Africa, which term ended on 14 October 2016.
After retiring as Public Protector, Adv Madonsela took up the chair in Social Justice at the Law Faculty of the Stellenbosch University in 2018, mainly focusing on issues of social justice, which includes administrative justice.
She continued her work on themes in line with her tenure as Public Protector. These themes include ethical governance in public institutions, adherence to the constitutional mandate of a public administration responding to the needs of the people, which undertakes accountability, is transparent and promotes efficient economic and effective use of resources.
Adv Madonsela was the co-architect and founding chairperson of the African Ombudsman Research Centre, and co-founder of the South African Women Lawyers Association.
Other honorary doctorate degrees were awarded to Adv Madonsela by the universities of Stellenbosch, Cape Town and Fort Hare, as well as by Rhodes University.
She has received various prestigious awards, including the Truth and Justice Award of the Law Society of South Africa; the annual prize of the German Africa Foundation; Transparency International’s prestigious Integrity Award and the General Council of the Bar’s Sydney and Felicia Kentridge Award.
Among the other prestigious awards she received are the Botswana Lawyers Association Honorary Membership of the Botswana Bar; the Commonwealth Lawyers Association’s Truth and Justice Award and Time magazine’s listing as one of the top 100 most influential people in the world. In 2016, she was nominated as Forbes Africa’s Person of the Year and spent a year as an Advanced Leadership Fellow at Harvard University.
Her exceptional achievements of a non-academic nature, substantiated by her important contribution to both the protection and strengthening of constitutional democracy in North West and South Africa, with specific focus on the identification and elimination of corruption, induced the Law Faculty of the NWU to nominate her for an honorary doctorate.
The honorary degree is further inspired by her exceptional services to and achievements for South Africa, and her exceptional contributions in the sphere of justice, society, corporate governance and government. These contributions align with the NWU’s dream, purpose and values.
The NWU is privileged to award the honorary doctorate to this formidable woman.
Adv Thuli Madonsela