UKZN conferred an Honorary Doctorate on former Public Protector Professor Thuli Madonsela in recognition of her tireless dedication to the Constitution, for being a fearless advocate for social justice and for her contribution to the betterment of the South African society through the promotion of democracy.
Madonsela said she views this accolade as a form of peer review. ‘It says that my peers believe that the work I do and have done over the years has been in line with the spirit of the Constitution and I hope it has enhanced the repute of my profession.’
Madonsela who currently serves as the Chair for Social Justice at Stellenbosch University, holds a BA in Law, an LLB from Wits University, various Management and Leadership postgraduate diplomas and certificates and Doctor of Laws (Honoris causa) degrees from Wits University, Stellenbosch University, the University of Cape Town, University of Fort Hare, Rhodes University, Northwest University and The Canadian Bar Association. She said she chose to study Law as she believes it is an instrument to confront and overcome injustice, particularly on the grounds of race and gender.
‘Working with others, we have achieved relative success, in that today is better than yesterday, but there is still a long way to go. I am grateful that the accolade highlights the work I am doing in social justice and ensuring that democracy works for all. I hope that one day we can truly make poverty history and achieve social and economic inclusion at all levels of society,’ she said.
Madonsela’s motto in life is: ‘I can’t choose my encounters, but I always have a choice on how I respond.’ Having grown up poor and faced great social injustice, she learnt to stand up for herself and others at a young age. Watching her parents go from unskilled jobs to informal trading was a big motivation for her to help improve society.
Her recent summit of Mount Kilimanjaro as part of Trek4Mandela, and the announcement of the M-Plan which aims to place social justice and equality at the centre in addressing South Africa’s multiple concurrent crises, are evidence of her continued commitment to fight social injustice.
To students who aim to follow in her footsteps, she said, ‘Many things in life seem impossible, but if you give it a try it is usually possible. In the midst of adversity lies opportunity. Success comes from finding collateral value in adversity, which is about turning challenges into opportunities. It requires a hope-anchored and opportunity-seeking mind-set. Such opportunity comes easily when we are purpose driven and service focussed.
‘In South Africa and Africa’s current adversities lie hidden opportunities for young people. To rise to the occasion, young people need a solutions oriented mind-set and collaboration. To every young person, remember that you are not alone, find the common ground, focus on purpose and hope and things will work out, not always immediately but eventually. Respond to life positively and life will reward you positively.’
Words: Lungile Ngubelanga
Photograph: Abhi Indrarajan