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Thuli Madonsela

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Thuli Madonsela Public Prosecutor and Newsmaker of The YearOn justice, the constitution and being a Mum

OUR PARENTS VALUES BECOME OUR OWN
Even though my mother was officially a domestic worker, she was well known in Soweto as an unofficial social worker.  She was always there to soothe the waters between fighting husbands and wives, mothers and daughters and troublesome neighbours.  A knock at the door in the middle of the night often meant there was a baby to deliver – and as a midwife off she’d go.  We also learnt that guests had to be fed first – which usually meant going out to buy ourselves bread when they’d left…

IT’S IMPORTANT TO GIVE BACK TO SOCIETY
In our family we were never taught to be successful.  What my father, who was an informal trader, taught us was there was no short cut – you had to work hard and be of value to society.  That was where my work with trade unions came in.  With my own son and daughter who are both still students I don’t preach the gospel of success and hopefully they will do something that will also contribute to the world they live in.

A GOOD TEAM IS ESSENTIAL FOR SUCCESS
When I came to this office I was lucky to inherit a great team.  The guys that do all the actual background work – they’re my super performers who literally see their work as a calling.

EVERY SINGLE COMPLAINT MUST RECEIVE THE SAME ATTENTION
For a member of the public who comes to us just one person from our office that doesn’t treat them right is one too many.  All our staff must interact with the same level of professionalism, rigour and promptness. People come to us to find the truth – even if it’s not always in their favour.  They want to know you’ve left no stone unturned and above all that they’re treated courteously.

YOU CAN’T PLEASE ALL THE PEOPLE ALL THE TIME
If you speak to people who have been negatively affected by our decisions you’ll probably find they don’t understand the process.  We’re not out to ‘get people’ – just to treat everyone equally, not as a comrade but as a human being.  Our justice should have eyes that look and see who’s involved and who isn’t.  I want justice to have eyes and not be blind.  In the end our reports speak for themselves – facts and figures.  Maladministration is maladministration and can’t be talked away.  We want municipalities to know there is a third eye – us!

OUR CONSTITUTION IS ONE TO BE PROUD OF
I gave up an opportunity to go on scholarship to Harvard for a year for a chance to work on the drafting of this document.  People are now worried this is being threatened.  People must not wrongly attribute the growing of democracy to the constitution.  The answer is not to change the constitution – it’s really the most stable thing in our society.  It’s the one thing that keeps reminding us who we want to become.  We can’t keep changing this but find ways of becoming the kind of society the constitution wants us to become.

YOU CAN LEARN FROM YOUR CHILDREN
With a 23 year old son and a 20 year old daughter you can be sure of one thing.  They’ll always bring you down to earth – in fact they really enjoy that.  With friends you can celebrate small victories and they will applaud.  With the kids they’ll say ‘mummy you just killed it’. They do of course at this age think they know everything – and sometimes I think they do.  They’re living in an information age, exposed to so much information that they’re forced to grow faster intellectually.  We grew fast in terms of wisdom bought on by hardships.  

CORRUPTION IS A SOCIETAL CHALLENGE
If society doesn’t see corruption as a problem they will be the problem.  People who use the proceeds of corruption present themselves as victims and sadly people don’t understand what is corruption and the damage it does to our lives.  But with the various corruption watch movements and civil movements people are beginning to talk about what it takes away from them.

ON BEING NEWSMAKER OF THE YEAR
I’m still not sure how this happened?  I was genuinely surprised that I’d been in the news so much in the last year.  Is it a good thing – this title?

FEELING GOOD ABOUT OUR COUNTRY
It would be so good if we read more about our successes, however small, in the media.  Just to find one municipality that’s run successfully…  People shouldn’t say it’s impossible to be like Toronto for instance.  It is possible.  We have very successful government departments – look at SARS for example.  

ALL SOUTH AFRICANS CAN BE PART OF OUR ECONOMY
It’s shouldn’t be about the right numbers.  We need to create a situation where black people accept that not every white person is racist and that black people are just normal human beings like white people with the same needs, hopes and fears.  There are as many good black and white people.  People tend to group cultures together as in ‘all Indian people – all Chinese people are…  We need a dialogue to train people to accept diversity.

MY SPIRITUALITY IS ALWAYS THERE FOR ME
Being religious for me means being deeply spiritual.    A Christian for me is always looking at the spiritual side of life.

A PERFECT DAY FOR ME IS…
Sunday morning church, followed by cooking for my children and friends ending up with an overdose of movies.  Our favourites are the Phantom of the Opera and historical movies, like The King’s Speech.  

A GYM MEMBERSHIP SHOULDN’T JUST BE FOR JANUARY
I shouldn’t make New Year’s resolutions I don’t keep – although I walk at least once a week.

FAMILY KEEPS YOU GROUNDED
My wardrobe consists of black, black and more black.  My daughter, the fashion advisor says “lighten up a bit – don’t be such a lawyer”.  The thing is no matter what they say or do you just love them, even when they drive your car into walls…

 

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Marion Scher is a member of the Southern African Freelancers Assocation

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