A week into her new position as chair of social justice in the Law Faculty of Stellenbosch University, Thuli Madonsela is more convinced than ever that she made the right decision.

“I chose Stellenbosch University because it allows me to focus on my first love, namely social justice; the institution also allows me to focus on something less administrative. I had received many offers, but at this stage of my life, I thought with all the knowledge I have gained over the years it’s best that I plough that back,” she said.

Madonsela’s appointment was announced in October 2016, however, she used 2017 to go on a sabbatical for a year to Harvard University on a one-year fellowship. Her duties involve teaching and research at Stellenbosch University’s Law Faculty and she will also be involved in civil society initiatives.

Madonsela, a former teacher at Naledi High School in Soweto, said education is one of the greatest tools to transform people’s minds and to empower them to realise their full potential.

“Harvard for me was a fantastic time. It was so phenomenal and it was an energising environment,” Madonsela said. She said she knew going back was a good decision.

Madonsela previously served as Public Protector for seven years. Her main work focused on ethical governance in public institutions and realising the public administration that responds to the people’s needs.

She said that this year South Africans should reclaim their glory. “South Africans have survived all forms of trauma and I believe 2018 is the year we say we can be great.”

During her time as Public Protector, she believed in speaking truth to power and holding those in power accountable. “The basis of leadership is trust and accountability which is vital. Looking at President Jacob Zuma I was disappointed by his style of leadership in 2014 and after 2014 I think his willingness to listen to humanity was diminished,” she said.

Madonsela has been at the helm of arguably two of the most important probes into the current administration. Her report on President Jacob Zuma’s R246-million Nkandla residence found that the president had unduly benefitted from taxpayers money. She was challenged by the ruling party who undermined her report and the ANC Youth League called for her resignation. However, she was unfazed and stood her ground.

More recently her probe into state capture involving the notorious Gupta family, who are close associates of Zuma, set in motion a chain of events that includes suspensions and dismissals of key players in big business and government.

Picture: Stellenbosch University

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