Advocate Thuli Madonsela is one of South Africa’s most revered public figures.
Since her appointment as Public Protector in 2009, she won the nation’s hearts by restoring their faith in justice as she stood steadfast against corruption, showing extraordinary courage and patriotism for the protection of the country’s democracy and the rights of ordinary citizens.
Who can forget her steadfastness as she came under fire by the country’s current ruling party, the ANC, as she uncovered that President Jacob Zuma unduly benefited from security upgrades to his private home in Nkandla, KwaZulu Natal that cost the taxpayer over R200 million? She also played an important role in uncovering the improper conduct and maladministration by former Police National Commissioner Bheki Cele and the Department of Public Works, resulting in the suspension of Cele from his position as the national head and the sacking of then Public Works Minister Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde in the 2011 cabinet reshuffle. Her dedication to serving the nation earned her recognition by Time Magazine in 2014 as the one of the 100 most influential people.
While reading about her work in the media, I wondered about her experiences before she became an influential figure; the insecurities and challenges she had to overcome and her successes.
I was therefore happy when I found the letter that she wrote to her 16-year-old self in a book of collected letters written by South Africans to their teenage selves titled From Me to Me: Letters to my 16 and a half-year old self by Samantha Page.
The main point that she makes in her letter is that everyone has a purpose, and it will be fulfilled no matter what obstacles may come in the way. Here is the letter:
It is April 2012, 5 months before our big 5-0 birthday.
I am your future. At the moment, you are 16-and-a half years old, doing grade 11, known as form four then, at Evelyn Baring High School in Swaziland, the year being 1979. You are wondering what you will be, caught between thoughts of pursuing medicine and law. Your pastor’s disapproving views on the latter are not in any way helpful.
I know you are socially awkward, plagued by a nagging feeling of being unloved and ugly. Perhaps this comes from being teased about your big head and, more recently, two of your academically inferior classmates have started taunting you, too. Having two sisters whose beauty is always noticed and praised has not helped either.
Secure in your academic prowess – for which you are always praised at home and at school – you are regarded as helpful and relied on by your family, friends, teachers and your church. This makes you feel significant. You will excel, academically, throughout your life and this will bring you to where you are right now. I’m writing to tell you to relax because you are a perfect expression of God’s magnificence.
You are the mother of two wonderful children, a beautiful daughter Wenzile Una and a handsome son Mbusowabantu “Wantu” Fidel. Your fears of being unlovable were unfounded. You have been loved and supported beyond measure throughout your life.
Today, you are the nation’s Public Protector – a very responsible position that helps curb excesses in the exercise of public power while enabling the people to exact justice for state wrongs. You had the privilege of playing some role in bringing about change in this country, including the drafting of the new constitution that saw Nelson Mandela become the first black President. Mama was right, education is the great leveler. I’m glad I listened to her.
You have experienced tough times and great times, been met with nurturers and detractors, but all these life lessons have been necessary to help you bloom. You have come to realize that you are perfect for your life’s purpose. You’ve always been a dreamer, an eternal optimist. Keep dreaming for dreams have wings. But live consciously and take time to smell the roses otherwise life will pass you by, including the opportunity to appreciate the finite precious moments you will enjoy with your late partner, younger sisters and parents. Above all, remember that love is everything and don’t forget to forgive yourself and others.
Love you unconditionally,
Thuli Nomkhosi Madonsela (Your older Self)
Thuli Madonsela has been a part of South Africa’s political landscape for many years. She played an instrumental role in drafting the country’s new Constitution that saw Nelson Mandela become the first black president of South Africa. Today she is the public protector but a dreamer and optimist at heart.
Viva to the purpose-driven life!
*image from Mail & Guardian.