Public Protector Adv Thulisile Nomkhosi ‘Thuli’ Madonsela has been conferred with the Diakonia Human Rights Award for ‘extraordinary courage, patriotism and steadfast opposition to injustice, corruption and maladministration.’

Adv Madonsela was honoured during the annual Diakonia Lecture, which she also delivered, on 8 September.

In the citation, the Diakonia Council noted her unwavering commitment to seeing public officials manage state power and public resources in a manner that is accountable and responsive to the rights and needs of all.

Describing her as a ‘shining star’ and a ‘breath of fresh air’ who has inspired hope among millions of citizens, the Council said, “Adv Madonsela has worked tirelessly, notwithstanding severe criticism, at times at the risk of her own life. Her courage, determination, integrity and ability to tirelessly pursue one of the world’s toughest and most dangerous battles have made her a household name to millions of South Africans who have been longing for ethical and principled leadership.”

Adv Madonsela was described as a person of integrity, with ‘not even the hint of an ethical stain’ who has set a very high bar in the exercise of her duties and ‘left a blameless template for her successor to adopt.’

“She has not compromised her values for cheap gain as we see all over the place in our society today. In her unwavering commitment to a fairer and more just South Africa and to the delivery of the constitutional dream of a democratic society where every citizen’s potential is freed and quality of life is improved, she has assured herself a place in the history of this great nation. Hers is the best exemplification of progressive humanism,” the citation read.

Earlier delivering the annual Lecture, Adv Madonsela urged citizens to work closely with her office in bringing cases of corruption and maladministration to her office’s attention for investigation.

She noted that there is no dignity in poverty and lamented that 22 years into democracy, millions of South Africans are still mired in poverty. She gave an example of the notorious Glebelands Hostel where she saw for herself the inhumane living conditions of the hostel community.

“The living conditions there were totally inhumane. There was water everywhere, and rubbish had not been collected. We were struck by obscene poverty, people are sharing one room. You never imagined that that is how people would live,” she said.

Adv Madonsela said there is a need to ignite the passion for social justice activism and added that freedom in poverty is meaningless.

She ended by giving a word of advice to her successor: “To my successor, the important thing is that your job is to protect the people and nobody else. In doing so, it is important to have good relationships with the government but you must not have allegiances. Sometimes you will have to choose between a cordial relationship and the truth.”