Profile of Advocate Thulisile (Thuli) Madonsela: Public Protector-RSA

Adv Thulisile (Thuli) Nomkhosi Madonsela is the Public Protector of South Africa, a position she has occupied for over 5 years. The 3Rd Public Protector and first woman to occupy the position, Adv Madonsela was appointed by the President with effect from 15 October 2009 following a unanimous vote by all parties represented in Parliament. Since Advocate Madonsela took office, the Public Protector as a constitutional institution has tackled tough questions and has received unprecedented national and international recognition, which has included her being recognized by Time Magazine as one of the world’s most influential people in 2014.

An advocate of the High Court of South Africa, human rights and constitutional lawyer, seasoned administrative investigator, equality expert and policy specialist with over two and a half decades of post legal qualification experience, Thuli Madonsela holds a BA Law (UNISWA,1987), an LLB (Wits 1990), LLD Honoris Causa (Fort Hare, 2014) and LLD Honoris Causa (Stellenbosch, 2015).

Her postgraduate studies include partial LLM studies and legal courses mainly in the area of Equality, Constitutional Analysis, Administrative Justice, Legal Drafting and Public Administration. She is also trained in Administrative Investigation Techniques, including Forensic Investigations, Strategic Planning, Scenario Planning, Project Management, Mediation and Negotiations She has participated in several Executive Management and Leadership courses, including Women’s Leadership Development.

One of the drafters of South Africa’s post-apartheid Constitution, Adv Madonsela forfeited a Harvard scholarship to focus on her constitution drafting role as one of the Technical Advisers that worked with the Constitutional Assembly in drafting the current Constitution. She is co-architect of Justice Vision 2000, the National Action Plan on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act, Employment Equity Act, Local Government Transition Act. She has contributed to several other laws enacted to transform the SA legal system since 1994, including the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act and the Repeal of the Black Administration Act.

Adv Madonsela is the Chairperson of the African Ombudsman Research Centre, a research and training facility based at the University of KwaZulu Natal, established under her leadership in 2011. Until recently, she was the Secretary of the African Ombudsman and Mediators Association (AOMA) with her achievements in that capacity, including the conceptualization, drafting and adoption of the OR Tambo Declaration for Minimum Standards for African Ombudsman Offices. She is a sought out key note speaker on constitutionalism, corruption, ethics, leadership and the role of the Public Protector. Her addresses include the United Nations Global Compact Conference, World Economic Forum Council Conference, Tallberg Forum, International Ombudsman Institute Conferences, Institute for Cultural Diplomacy’s World Without Walls Conference and at African Union (AU) Conferences. Her international work includes contribution to the drafting of key international documents, including the Beijing +5 and WCAR Outcomes documents and several country human rights reports. She has also given lectures at various universities on her work and various aspects of the law.

At the time of appointment as Public Protector, Adv Madonsela was the only Full-time Commissioner in the South African Law reform Commission where in addition to managing the Commission’s entire programme, she served as the Project leader for specific projects such as the Statutory Law Revision Project whose focus was constitutional alignment and updating legislation; and the Commission’s project on the Review of the interpretation Act. She is also a co-architect of several policies, including the policy framework that formed the basis of the Ministry for Women, Children and Persons with Disability. She has held various senior positions in government and civil society.

Her career highlights include the following:
Public Protector       PublicProtector October 2009-
South African Law Reform Commission Full-time Member Jan 2007-Oct 2009
Waweth Law and Policy Research Agency Managing Director  2003-2009
Department of Justice  Project Manager: Equality Legislation Education Training ( Deputy Director General) 2001-2003
Department of Justice    Chief Director Transformation and Equity 1997-2001
Department of Justice Deputy Director Planning Unit 1995-1997
Constitutional Assembly     Technical Expert 1994-5
Independent Electoral; Commission(IEC) Presiding Officer 1994
Wits Law School -Centre For Applied Legal Studies   Research Officer/ Part Time Law Lecturer 1993-1995
Wits Law School Centre For Applied Legal Studies Research Fellow/Part time Law Lecturer 1992
Emmerex Construction  Legal advisor - Contracts Manager 1991-1992
National Union of Printers and Allied workers(NUPAWO)  Legal and Education Officer 1984-1987 (Initially Part-time)
Naledi High School  Assistant Teacher(Temp) 1982-1983
Evelyn Baring High School  Assistant Teacher(Temp) 1980-1980


  1. African Network of Constitutional Lawyers(ANCL)
  2. Black Lawyers Association(BLA)
  3. Business Women’s Association of South Africa(BWASA)
  4. South African Women Lawyers Association (SAWLA- Now Patron)

  5. Member of Advisory Board of the Institute for Cultural Diplomacy( 2014-)
  6. Board Chairperson, African Ombudsman Research Centre
  7. Chairperson: Centre for Reconciliation and Equality Studies (1999-2007)
  8. Chairperson: Equality Legislation Education Team ( 2000-2001)
  9. Chairperson: Equality Legislation Implementation Coordination Team (1999-2001)
  10. Chairperson: SA Labour Development Trust (SALDT)
  11. Cofounder & Interim Executive Member: SAWLA National (2006-7)
  12. Member: Black Empowerment Advisory Board- Department of Public Works (2001-2)
  13. Member: Commission for Employment Equity(1999-2004)
  14. Member: Equality Committee (Section 5 Committee) SAHRC (2007-)
  15. Member: Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action Board- Department of Defence (2000-2006)
  16. Member: Legal Research and Writing Project(2006-2009)
  17. Member: Steering Committee on the Legal Services and Chairperson of Focus Working Group on Governance(2004-9)
  18. Member: Steering Committee on the National Action Plan on the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights(Till 1998)
  19. Member: Steering Committee- National Racism Forum(till 2009)
  20. Member: Servcon Housing Solutions(1999-2002)
  21. Member: World Justice Forum (2008-)
  22. Secretary: Dhlamini Civic Association and Exec Member- Soweto Civic Association(1992-3)
  1. Harvard Scholarship: 1994/5
  2. Profiled by M-net: 1994
  3. Nominated for National Assembly, 1994
  4. Profiled in more than 50 media articles in newspapers, magazines and on Radio and TV Programmes
  5. Time 100 Most Influential Persons in the World
  6. Daily Maverick South African of the Year 2010
  7. Newsmaker of the Year 2011
  8. ANN& South African Person of the Year
  9. Forbes Africa Person of the Year Finalist
  10. Listed in various magazines annually among Inspirational Women and Women of the Year
  11. SAWLA Women Lawyer Icons 2013


T Madonsela ‘Judges and Gender: Labour Market Policy, Some Incorrect Assumptions’ (1993) Agenda No 18, and
T Madonsela ‘Beyond Putting Women on the Agenda’ (1995) Agenda No 24, 27-38
T Madonsela and T Nxesi ‘Affirmative Action for Women in the Public Sector’ (1994) Labour Bulletin 18:2(May: 43-48.
T Madonsela ‘The Right to Development: Focus on Law, Gender and Development’ Verbatim Record of the Half day Special Meeting on International investment., Trade and development, 46th of AALCO, Cape Town 4th July 2007


  1. Public Protector SA, Constitutional & Legislative Mandate of the Public Protector
  2. ABC of Local Government Transition(Booklet, 1994)
  3. Bench Book for Equality Courts(Co-author, 2001)
  4. Handbook on Gender Management and Leadership(2006)
  5. Monograph on Judicial independence (2005)
  6. Pocket Book on Equality Laws (Work in Progress)
  7. Resource Book for Equality Court Clerks(Co-author, 2001)
  8. SAWLA Legal Advice Handbook on Family Law and Related Matters(Ed & Co-Author, 2006)
  9. Through A Gender Lens: Gender Mainstreaming Principles and Methodology (2006)
  10. Women and the Law in South Africa: Gender Equality Jurisprudence in Landmark Court Decisions Co-author, 2006)
  11. Women and Local Government (Booklet, Coauthored, 1994)
  12. Women Judges Making A Difference (Conference Report/Book, 2004)

    Book Chapters, Learning Resources and Conference Papers

  13. Letter to My Self
  14. Advancing Equality Through Administrative Measures( In Ten Years Human Rights Review, 2006, SAHRC)
  15. BEE Tool Kit and Mainstreaming Gender in BEE Tool Kit (2006)
  16. Customary law ( Various papers)
  17. DHA Draft Gender Policy and Strategy (Co-author, 2008).
  18. Discussion Paper on a Ministry to Advance Women and Promote Gender Equality (Co-author, 2009)
  19. Draft Policy Framework on the Transformation of the Judiciary (Co-author, 1999-2005)
  20. Employment Equity (Various publications)
  21. Equality Chapter in Ten Year Human Rights Review (SAHRC Book, 2006)
  22. DOD Gender Mainstreaming Audit Report
  23. DOJ Gender Mainstreaming Pack( Report, Guidelines, Needs Assessment, Gender Responsive Budgeting Guidelines,(2004)
  24. Human Resources Policy Pack(Co-authored)
  25. Law Reform and Development (ALRAESA , Zambia)
  26. Mainstreaming Equality in Law Reform Conference Paper, Stellenbosch, 2009)
  27. Mainstreaming Gender in Law Reform (Conference Paper, UL, 2008)
  28. Integrated Provincial Gender Strategy for the Northwest Province
  29. SALRC Briefs (Newsletter of the SALRC)
  30. Social Security for Domestic and Farm Workers( Research Report)
  31. Socio-economic rights (Various papers)
  32. State and Constitutionalism Papers Delivered in (Lesotho, Uganda and Michigan)
  33. UDW Employment Equity and Diversity Management Module
  34. Women’s Health Handbook (Contributor on Workplace Safety)
  35. Various speeches, papers and conference reports.

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