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Alumni networking event with Thuli Madonsela

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A leader with integrity

Hundreds of Wits alumni arrived on campus to hear guest speaker Advocate Thuli Madonsela at a networking event on 23 May. The much-admired Wits alumna (LLB 1991, LLD honoris causa 2017), South Africa’s former Public Protector, spoke about “how to heal our troubled world”. Click on these links to listen to the audio, watch the video or see photos.

Why, she wondered, would anybody come to Wits on a chilly Tuesday morning to hear her speak? “That person must be committed to something. You must be people who want to create a particular kind of world – the world that Wits inculcated in us – one where everyone is embraced and nobody’s humanity is diminished. You are here today because you are still committed to that project.”

She said it was up to every individual to do what they could to put South Africa on the right track. “The South Africa of our dreams is in our hands. If you know what’s right, do what’s right. Whatever we do, let’s make sure we do it with integrity and hold others accountable.”

As the daughter of a domestic worker and a general worker, how did she find herself at Wits and later named as one of Time’s 100 most influential people in the world? “Because of the generosity of the human spirit,” she said. “My father thought education was not necessary – it was good enough if you could take instructions from a white man.” She was turned out of her home for wanting more.  Thanks to bursaries and scholarships from the World Council of Churches, the United Nations and Wits, and thanks to individuals who offered other kinds of support, she was able to begin her journey towards crafting and defending our justice system.

She was not left behind, like so many young people are. And when people are left behind, there is no peace for anyone.

“What can we do?” she asked. “One of the things that we should do is find a way to bridge the gap when it comes to inequality and poverty…  And I know that all of us alumni at Wits already support our academic institution and I know you already are contributing … but it would seem to me that one of the greatest calls right now is to find a way to make sure that everyone that deserves to be in a university gets into university. Smaller states have done that – we can’t wait for government, though at some stage government should come to the party… but it is in all our interests to … make sure that nobody who qualifies to be at a university is kicked out for financial reasons.

“We also have the power to make sure that once people are at university there’s a system that makes sure that they are not desperate and destitute. I know here at Wits there is a feeding scheme: that’s a great starting point. But we can meet the university half way by doing more than that.”

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