Women of Wonder

Thuli Madonsela: SA's top corruption crusader

21 August 2020 - 06:00 By Gareth Cotterell
Former public protector Thuli Madonsela became a household name when she investigated the misuse of R246m in public funds to upgrade former president Jacob Zuma's homestead, Nkandla. File photo.
Former public protector Thuli Madonsela became a household name when she investigated the misuse of R246m in public funds to upgrade former president Jacob Zuma's homestead, Nkandla. File photo.
Image: THULI DLAMINI

WHO IS SHE?

Thuli Madonsela is SA's former public protector.

She served as public protector from 2009 to 2014, when corruption was rampant in SA. Her fight against corruption made her one of the most popular public figures in the country.

CLAIM TO FAME

Appointed to the position of public protector by Jacob Zuma, Madonsela became a thorn in the side of the former president.

She first became a household name when she investigated the misuse of R246m in public funds to upgrade Zuma's homestead, Nkandla.

She then turned her attention to corruption at the highest level when she looked into state capture. After leaked documents and a trove of investigative reporting revealed  alleged mass corruption on the part of Zuma, cabinet members, state-owned entities and the Gupta family, Madonsela released her “State of Capture” report. The report led to the state capture inquiry being launched and was instrumental in Zuma stepping down as president.

INSPIRATION

The daughter of informal traders, Madonsela grew up in Soweto, Gauteng. Despite her humble beginnings, she studied law at the University of Swaziland and the University of the Witwatersrand.

After graduating she worked in the public and private sectors.

She was a member of the ANC and the United Democratic Front during apartheid. Despite her political allegiances, she turned down an opportunity to be an MP in SA's first democratic government in 1994.

Madonsela also turned down job opportunities at the World Bank, the United Nations and a major law firm to instead become the chair of the faculty of social justice at Stellenbosch University.

She told the Sunday Times she wanted to use the position to promote “democracy literacy” among students so they will no longer be “conned” by corrupt political leaders.

She has also launched a fundraising campaign to help put an end to financial exclusion at universities.

IN CASE YOU DIDN'T KNOW

Madonsela was part of the team that wrote SA's constitution in 1996.