Impressions from Parliament: The new Speaker at a glance

Former Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces Thandi Modise was elected Speaker of the National Assembly recently.  As speaker Modise now has the unenviable task of presiding over debates in the National Assembly that has become increasingly disruptive. As part of her duties, she would serve as the administrative head and executive authority of Parliament, interprets and enforces the rules of Parliament and delivers rulings. Here is a sneak peak into her track record with a focus on her contribution to mainstreaming a feminist agenda on all the platforms she served.

NAME: Thandi Modise


POPULARLY KNOWN FOR: Complaints on animal cruelty on her farm



Modise is among the few women commanders in Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK).

She was the first woman in South Africa to be jailed for MK activities.


 Between 1998 and 2004 she also served as chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Defence and the Joint Standing Committee on Defence, and as a MP. On 19 November 2010 Modise was appointed Premier of North West province. In addition, she serves as the Chairperson of the Council of the Robben Island Museum.

POLITICAL STATEMENTS (ON GENDER): Has always been outspoken on Sexual Violence: “Women are not sexual objects and men should condemn abusive behaviour towards women. "It is unthinkable that there are still men out there who believe that they can use women as sexual objects.” (SowetanLive)

“We should name and shame perpetrators. Teenage pregnancies in our schools point to decay in our moral fibre. We fail our children when we cannot be their role models. We demand truth and accountability from our educators, parents and politicians because our communities are demanding truth, stability and service delivery,” emphasised Premier Modise in formally launching a campaign against the scourge of rape and gender based violence

  • Modise on occasion called for rapists to be chemically castrated.
  • She has been outspoken on misogyny especially in her time as MK commander. She said in an interview: “When it comes to men, it's heroism. When it comes to women it's almost like you should be ashamed. Why otherwise do we not accept that women played a part in the [armed] struggle?”
  • Modise has publicly acknowledged cultural values and beliefs are possible contributors to violence against women. Factors, such as, masculinity being associated with dominance, male entitlement and ‘ownership’ of women and approval of chastisement of women are some of the practices putting women at risk.
  • Modise has been vocal about Ukuthwala. We must distinguish between ukuthwala in its traditional form and the harmful and somewhat distorted practice currently occurring. We know that ukuthwala is an old custom that is now being wrongly practised or hijacked by sexual predators. (



  • As North West Premier Thandi Modise intensified her war against the scourge of rape through the launch of her Million Signatures Campaign Against Sexual Abuse.


  • As presiding officer, she never rebuked MPs for sexist behaviour during sittings.



  • Modise has an impressive track record in dismantling patriarchy as she climbed the ranks of ANC leadership. The last couple of years, however, she failed to inspire on gender empowerment issues. Modise dropped the ball for women on a platform (parliament /NCOP) where she could have made a real difference in bringing her proven feminist consciousness into the work of Parliament and her party. Now that she’s Speaker, she has yet another chance to inspire.


More on Thandi Modise here:


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