Woman who took on the top cop


Behind Thuli Madonsela’s gentle exterior is a steely core determined to do the right thing. She’s shown she’s not afraid to tackle top dogs, including national police commissioner Bheki Cele.

As public protector she earned praise countrywide when she criticised Cele’s role in securing a controversial R500-million lease for the new police headquarters in Pretoria.

While we wait to meet her at her Pretoria offices we chat to office assistant Busisiwe Jele. ‘‘She’s an angel,’’ she says. Madonsela’s PA, Juliet Nkabinde, adds, ‘‘She’s a warm, free-spirited woman and trustworthy.’’

When Madonsela (48) talks about her job she becomes passionate. The public protector’s office has to ensure government and its agencies deliver and that they obey the law when dealing with taxpayers’ money, she explains.

Her office has helped many ordinary South Africans to obtain ID books and welfare grants and to secure fair trials.

‘‘I have a duty to investigate the public’s complaints and make recommendations,’’ she says. ‘‘We have the Constitution behind us but it’s not an easy job; I’ve often had to answer the question, ‘Who are you to tell us what to do?’ ‘’

Last year she took on SA’s highest office when she ruled that President Jacob Zuma had erred in not declaring his financial interests to parliament within 60 days of taking office.

But no matter how dedicated she is to her job her biggest passion is her family. Madonsela loves to spend time with her children, Mbusawabantu (22) and Wenzile (19), at home in Pretoria. ‘‘My best moments are when I’m being a parent,’’ she says.

What does the public protector do to relax? She loves listening to classical music – and is a soccer fan. ‘‘I just love Orlando Pirates! While growing up I used to go to the stadium a lot but I haven’t been able to do that in a long time.’’

Read more about it in YOU, 10 March 2011. To contact the public protector call  0800-11-20-40 .

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