Former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela has received French knighthood after being appointed to the French Legion of Honour, which celebrates the accomplishments of distinguished individuals.
In a statement on Thursday, Stellenbosch University, where Madonsela is the chair in social justice at the law faculty, announced that Madonsela was appointed as Knight of the Legion of Honour by French President Emmanuel Macron.
According to the university, the honour is bestowed on deserving individuals, irrespective of sex, social background and nationality, and is viewed as the highest decoration in France.
It was established by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802.
“The categories of the Order include the degrees Chevalier (Knight), Officier (Officer), Commandeur (Commander), Grand Officier (Grand Officer) and Grand-Croix (Grand Cross),” Stellenbosch University spokesperson Martin Viljoen said.
“Previous South African recipients of the degree Chevalier (Knight) include Nadine Gordimer, Ahmed Kathrada, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Mamphela Ramphele, Miriam Makeba, André P Brink and Zanele Muholi.”
Viljoen added that late former president Nelson Mandela was a Grand-Croix recipient in 1994.
“The title to Madonsela was conferred by Macron on 20 November 2020. The official ceremony to bestow the insignia on Madonsela will take place as soon as the Covid-19 situation eases significantly on a date to be mutually agreed between the French Ambassador to South Africa, Aurelien Lechevallier, and Madonsela.
“In his letter to Madonsela, Ambassador Lechevallier said Madonsela is honoured in recognition of her remarkable achievements in defence of the rule of law and the fight against corruption in South Africa.”
Madonsela said she could not find the right words to express the depth of her gratitude to the president and people of France for the immense honour.
“As indicated in respect of previous awards, I do my work to add value to humanity out of love and gratitude for the privileges life and humanity have given me and in pursuit of my duties,” Madonsela said.
“However, a recognition of this magnitude does inspire immense gratitude while spotlighting my work on social justice, the rule of law and ethical governance. I believe it comes from a place of appreciating our interconnectedness as humanity, though separated by oceans and borders.”
Madonsela added that she accepted the honour on behalf of the Public Protector team that worked with her in the pursuit of ethical and accountable government for seven years.
“I also accept the award on behalf of my colleagues at Stellenbosch University, with whom we are pioneering research, policy reform and civic mobilisation on social justice, with the hope of catalysing progress towards ending poverty and reducing structural inequality by 2030 in line with the global Sustainable Development Goals.
“I also accept it on behalf of my Thuma Foundation colleagues, who are mostly volunteers dedicating their time and resources towards making democracy work for all through democracy leadership and literacy.”