News / Opinion

Thuli Madonsela
2 minute read
10 Oct 2021
6:43 pm

Without justice, rule of law, a successful society is out of reach – Madonsela

Thuli Madonsela

The former public protector Thuli Madonsela will this week host the third Annual Social Justice Summit at Stellenbosch University.

Former public protector advocate Thuli Madonsela during an interview outside the University of Stellenbosch’s old main building on June 20, 2019 in Stellenbosch. (Photo by Gallo Images/Netwerk24/Jaco Marais)

Mountain climbing is one of my favourite hobbies. The chance to enjoy the crisp mountain air, to marvel at the magnificence of Mother Nature, and to share this with friends and new acquaintances is something which I value and cherish.

I must hasten to say that I have the Nelson Mandela Foundation and its partnership with the Imbumba Foundation on the #Trek4Mandela – #Caring4Girls initiative to thank for reacquainting me with this childhood pleasure.

In recent months, I have tackled several hikes and climbs. It tests your mind, body and spirit, and you only succeed because of the support of the members of your climbing party. I believe that to a great extent, the same can be said for the importance of the pursuit of social justice.

We must keep pushing, we must persevere, and every time we reach a target, we realise there is yet another target to achieve. As long as you are headed in the right direction, you need not crucify yourself for your slow pace.

The Japanese call it Kaizen.

Let me explain. I joined Stellenbosch University four years ago with a clear mandate – to develop a globally respected social justice research and training hub. My team and I have developed papers and arranged several events to unpack the aspects of social justice.

The golden thread running through it all has been the working definition underpinning the research of the chair, namely that social justice is about the equal enjoyment of all rights and freedoms regardless of human diversity reflected in the fair, just and equitable distribution of all opportunities, resources, benefits, privileges and burdens in a society or group.

This year sees the third instalment of our Annual Social Justice Summit, which will pick up from the decisions and resolutions adopted during last year’s gathering.

South Africa is widely acknowledged to be the most unequal society in the world, a situation that was both highlighted and exacerbated when the Covid pandemic struck.

The question will again be asked at our 2021 Summit: what difference did the regulations and legislation implemented during the pandemic made to the lived realities of our people? Did it change things for the better?

The Conference will also explore the role of economic inequality and sustaining peace, stability and the rule of law in emerging democracies.

In the end, it all boils down to the rule of law. If we do not adhere to the rule of law, if we do not ensure access to justice, then we will not be successful in creating a society where everyone can flourish.

  • The summit runs from Monday to Tuesday. Find information at
  • Madonsela is Law Trust chair in Social Justice at Stellenbosch University and the former Public Protector of South Africa.