Advocate Thuli Madonsela awarded honorary doctorate by NWU

Issued by North West University
North-West, May 29, 2019

On 23 May, North-West University (NWU) honoured a formidable woman working in the field of law for the enormous role she has played in promoting democracy in SA and, in doing so, prioritising good governance and accountability.

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 in Law degree from the University of Swaziland and an LLB degree from the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits University).

She taught at secondary schools for a number of years, before working as a legal and education officer at the Paper, Printing, Wood and Allied Workers' Union from 1084 to 1987.

Since 1987, Madonsela has worked in several government departments, in civil society organisations and in academia. She has, for instance, lectured on the subject of applied law at Wits University; worked at the Independent Electoral Commission; and held the position of Chief Director: Transformation and Equity in the Department of Justice, where 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 from 2007 to 2009, before being appointed SA's third Public Protector in October 2009. Her seven-year term of office came to an end on 14 October 2016.

After retiring as Public Protector, Madonsela took on the position of chair in social justice at Stellenbosch University's law faculty, focusing mainly on issues of social justice, including administrative justice.

In this role, she has continued with her work on the themes that defined her tenure as Public Protector. These themes include ethical governance in public institutions, adherence to the constitutional mandate of a public administration that responds to people's needs, that is accountable and transparent, and that promotes the efficient, economic and effective use of resources. She not only engages in teaching and research, but remains involved in civil society initiatives.

Madonsela was the co-architect and founding chairperson of the African Ombudsman Research Centre, and co-founder of the South African Women Lawyers' Association.

NWU is not the first of SA's higher education institutions to award her with an honorary doctorate in law: the universities of Stellenbosch, Cape Town, Fort Hare and Rhodes University have done so too.

Madonsela has also received various prestigious awards, including the Truth and Justice Award of the Law Society of SA; the annual prize of the German Africa Foundation; Transparency International's Integrity Award and the General Council of the Bar's Sydney and Felicia Kentridge Award.

Among the other accolades she has received are the Botswana Lawyers Association Honorary Membership of the Botswana Bar; the Commonwealth Lawyers Association's Truth and Justice Award; and in 2014 she was listed as one of Time magazine's 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.

In bestowing this latest accolade on Madonsela, NWU said: "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 NWU to nominate her for an honorary doctorate.

"The honorary degree is further inspired by her exceptional services to and achievements for SA, and her exceptional contributions in the spheres of justice, society, corporate governance and government. These contributions align with the NWU's dreams, purpose and values.

"The NWU is privileged to award the honorary doctorate to this formidable woman," it concluded.