By Koketso Mamabolo


Honourable Thandi Modise has been in the public eye for several decades but, with everything we know about her, what about the things we don’t know about the former Speaker of the National Assembly? Here are three things you didn’t know about the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans. 


The Knitting Needle Guerilla

“The Knitting Needle Guerilla” was what the Weekly Mail dubbed Honourable Thandi Modise in a March 1989 feature, by Thami Mkhawanzi, on the current Minister of Defence and Military Veterans. With first hand military experience, who better to have sitting at the helm of the Ministry tasked with protecting the free nation which Hon. Modise sacrificed so much for. 


CPUT Chancellor

In 2017, while still the Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces, the Minister succeeded former Finance Minister Trevor Manuel as the Chancellor of the Cape Peninsula University of Technology. Hon. Modise is the first woman in this position. 

In attendance at the welcome ceremony was the Minister of Higher Education, Honourable Blade Nzimande, who noted: “One of the most important things precisely during these challenging times in the higher education sector, generally, and at CPUT, specifically, is that we need more government leadership to work together with student and worker leadership. It becomes therefore (sic) very important that she joins the higher education community at this point because we need her wisdom and dedication. She’s a very principled person and we need those like her to act as examples.” 

At the ceremony Hon. Modise addressed the challenges facing universities, recognising the need for them to innovate and committing to play a meditation role between students and management. “I will be taking up the challenge and am very, very honoured,” said the Minister.



At the inaugural African Diaspora Awards in 2013, Honourable Modise was given special recognition for the “Advancement of Peace and Women in Africa”. Presenting the award was Dr. Knox Chitiyo, an Africa Fellow at Chatham House. “The embrace of moral uprightness which was espoused through the sustained surge for freedom, democracy and progressive self-determination led to empowerment of oppressed communities and made our world [better-able] to contend with diversity than ever before,” said the Minister in her keynote address.

Almost ten years later, and now in her role as the head of the Defence Ministry, she is continuing her efforts to foster a continent free of conflict and is an example of the focused leadership required in dealing with disputes.

Honourable Modise has continued South Africa’s commitment to deploying members of the  South African National Defence Force (SANDF) in peacekeeping missions across the continent. As part of Operation Mistral, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the SANDF is currently involved in MONUSCO’s Force Intervention Brigade (FIB), maintaining the nation’s position as one of the biggest contributors to African, and global, peace efforts.



  • 1976 – Left school to go into exile
  • 1978 – Returned from exile
  • 1979 – Arrested for anti-apartheid activities
  • 1980 – Sentence to 16 years imprisonment
  • 1989 – Released from prison
  • 1994 – Elected as a Member of Parliament
  • 1994 – Councillor and Chairperson of the Robben Island Museum Council
  • 1998 – Chair of Portfolio Committee on Defence and the Joint Standing Committee on Defence
  • 2004 – Speaker of the North West Provincial Legislature
  • 2010 – Premier of the North West Province
  • 2014 – Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces
  • 2019 – Speaker of the National Assembly
  • 2021 – Minister of Defence and Military Veterans


Get your business featured in Public Sector Leaders