'I just want to be normal again': Thuli Madonsela

By Gabisile Ngcobo
10 September 2016

"In six months’ time people will be saying, ‘Thuli who?’”

She reckons that people will soon forget about her after she bows out of the spotlight as the country’s public protector next month.

But will she? Thanks to a slew of high profile cases she took on in her term, it's unlikely advocate Thuli Madonsela's name will be forgotten anytime soon.

Read more: And the new Public Protector is…

But, while it's the likes of the president’s Nkandla homestead that the public will remember, Thuli says it’s the Gogo Dlamini cases she'll miss the most.

“I’ll miss the opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives,” she told YOU. “We can see their life change.”

Certainly, seeing struggling grannies finally receive their pension money would be enough to warm anybody’s heart.

But that's not to say Thuli won't become wistful for the rush that went along with pushing back against the beast of corruption.

And it will definitely be hard to say goodbye to her team that she’s fond of and worked with for seven years.

“They believe in what they’re doing and they’ve carried this load and to them, it’s their job,” Thuli explains.

They also challenged Thuli when it came to decision-making and often convinced her to make a tough calls.

“We were all responsible for the decisions that were made they were the first to take offence when somebody criticised the decision that had been made because they knew the hard work that went into it.”

The advocate commends the public protector’s office for its amazing spirit.

But, there’s one thing that Thuli is glad she’s leaving behind -- the politics.

PHOTO: Lubabalo Lesolle PHOTO: Lubabalo Lesolle

“I think they showed an ugly face of fear,” she says. “When people are afraid they lose their humanity, they’re prepared to strike at you with anything and everything they have.”

The mother of two says they ceased to see her as a human being but saw her as a “dangerous thing”.

Thuli endured many insults and sorts of name calling throughout her tenure.

“The insults were periodic and would come out of the blue and we’d laugh at them and they’d go away,” she says with a chuckle.

But she didn’t find it funny being called a spy and thought it was irresponsible and reckless, she says.

“It was dangerous because even while it’s far-fetched there are mentally dislocated people out there who aren’t going to be discerning enough to understand this is ridiculous.”

While she has even been named in TIME's list of the most 100 influential people in the world, she says her office never sought for fame.

“We just wanted to do our work the best we knew how. The only reward we were looking for was patting ourselves on the back.”

However, as much as she appreciates the admiration and recognition that was given to her and her team, she’d also love to have her normal life again.

“I'd like to walk into the mall and nobody knows who I am or cares and they go about their shopping,” she laughing her heart out.

“I kept saying to my kids although they disagree with me that in six months’ time people will be saying, ‘Thuli who?’”

“You also think I’m delusional but it’s a dream I have.”

PHOTO: Lubabalo Lesolle PHOTO: Lubabalo Lesolle

Thuli wouldn’t have it any other way because the journey has been exciting even though she has lost a few friends along the way.

“They are those who left me because it’s career-limiting to be associated with [me],” she reveals.

Her schedule is so packed that many people have given up having tea with her or going out for a movie because she’s always cancelling and postponing.

“Only one of my friends of mine, I think she deserves a medal because we keep rescheduling for the last three months but she’s busy direct messaging me.”

“It’s been impossible to just keep ordinary friends, let alone a relationship.”

“I don’t think women in positions of power necessarily need to be ‘relationshipless’. It’s an issue of balancing the two.”

It will definitely be an emotional day for Thuli when she leaves the office but she can’t tell if she’s going to cry or not.

“I never know when I’m going to cry. I don’t want to cry but I don’t know.”

Thuli recalls being teary when Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng delivered his judgment on whether President Jacob Zuma should pay back some of the taxpayers' money spent on non-security upgrades at his private homestead.

“I had never felt tears of Nkandla until that day,” she laughs.

She’s ecstatic about her future and she's looking forward to taking a sabbatical for a year before diving right back into helping shape South Africa for the better.

Read more about Thuli:

Thuli Madonsela’s morning routine will make you feel like you’re really underachieving

Thuli Madonsela makes Time’s list of 100 most influential people

Thuli is a ‘CIA spy’: minister

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