She Beat Out Presidents For The Title: Forbes Africa Person Of The Year 2016

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Written by Dana Sanchez

South Africa’s deputy defense minister called her a spy for the CIA. There was a contract out on her on her life, accusations of being an Israeli sympathizer and she was forced to investigate her boss — the person who hired her, President Jacob Zuma.

But former South African Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s survived her seven-year term, which ended Oct. 14, and last week she was named Forbes Africa Person of the Year 2016, Africa News reported.

The award honors excellence in Africa, and Madonsela is the first woman, first South African, first lawyer and sixth recipient, according to Face 2 Face Africa.

Forbes said Madonsela won the Person of the Year Award for bravery “in her quest to bring inconsistencies to the fore,” according to Times Live.

She beat out Mauritian President Ameenah Gurib, Tanzanian President John “The Bulldozer” Magufuli, South African businessman Michiel le Roux, founder of Capitec Bank, and the people of Rwanda.

Zuma appointed Madonsela in 2009 for a seven-year term, then became a subject of her investigations that continued until her last day in office.

As a human rights lawyer, Madonsela, 54, helped shape the new South Africa in the post-apartheid era. She was one of the 11 technical experts who helped the Constitutional Assembly draft the country’s final constitution in 1994 and 1995, according to an earlier AFKInsider report.

As public defender, Madonsela’s job fell somewhere between government watchdog and a public prosecutor, New York Times reported. Most of the reports her office released concern low-­level government corruption, but the ones that get the most attention were her investigations into Zuma.

In her job as public protector, Madonsela took Zuma to court twice over corruption allegations.

The first time, Zuma was ordered to repay state funds used to renovate his Nkandla home. The second time, he was ordered to allow Madonsela to publish the incriminating report.

In addition to U.S. spy accusations, Madonsela was accused of working for the opposition Democratic Alliance party; acting like she was God; being racist toward the ANC and abusing her power.

She can ignore most of it, she said, but the accusation by the deputy defense minister that she was a CIA spy really got to her.

It “was the saddest moment of my career,” she said, according to NYTimes. “That is the ANC that I grew up loving.”

Here are the previous winners of Forbes Africa Person of the Year Award:

  • 2015 – Mohammed Dewji, CEO of MeTL Group, Tanzania
  • 2014 – Aliko Dangote, Chairman and CEO of the Dangote Group, Nigeria.
  • 2013 winner – Akinwumi Adesina, the then Minister of Agriculture in Nigeria, now head of the African Development Bank.
  • 2012 winner – James Mwangi, CEO of Equity Bank, Kenya
  • 2011 winner – Sanusi Lamido Sanusi (then-governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria and now Muhammadu Sanusi II, Emir of Kano).