Thulisile, better known as “Thuli” Madonsela’s name is one we’ll be sure to see in history books for centuries to come. The human rights lawyer, equality expert and South African advocate taught for many years, and in the late 80s and early 90s she segued into government. First, as a legal advisor and contract manager for public and private trade unions and later, in 1996, working closely with then President Nelson Mandela on the final constitution of South Africa. From 2009 through 2016 she served as Public Protector, an assignment under which she had the weight on her shoulders of exploring and correcting all instances of abuse of power and unethical practices. Madonsela always did what was just, and continues to do so as a member of the South African Law Reform Commission. Serious about her contributions to the political sphere, she has always been clear-cut about where she felt she was meant to make the most impact.
Recently, in a talk at the Cape Town branch of international investment, insurance and banking group Old Mutual, she told an audience, "I believe I am better positioned in civil society to make a difference, especially in working with young people.” Madonsela is currently the chair of Social Justice at her alma mater; Stellenbosch University, as well as Chairperson of the Centre for Reconciliation and Equality Studies. She still maintains strong views about what is needed to ensure the bright future for South Africa that she has always envisioned. Among them, is what she calls epic leadership. "Epic leadership is ethical, purpose driven, impact conscious and committed to service," she expounded, according to Carin Smith of South Africa’s News24. Her principled, forthright approach has earned her respect and admiration around the globe, including distinctions and awards such as being named one of TIME Magazine’s 2014 100 Most Influential People in the World, Glamour’s Woman of Courage in the 2014 Woman of the Year Awards, and Forbes’ 2016 African Person of the Year. This year, we celebrate her strength and accomplishments.