Dr Naledi Pandor leaves politics with a legacy of excellence

Published Jul 3, 2024


Dr Pandor’s passion for education and public service was evident from a young age. The Struggle veteran holds a PhD from the University of Pretoria and has received honorary doctorates from several institutions.

As the daughter of struggle activist Joe Matthews, who was the son of anti-apartheid activist and academic ZK Matthews, Pandor’s political journey most probably started at birth in Durban, in December 1953. She was born Grace Naledi Mandisa Matthews.

Pandor spent most of her schooling years in exile, completing her matric at the Gaborone Secondary School in Botswana. She also obtained a BA in History and English at the University of Botswana in 1977, before studying towards her masters at the University of London and subsequent MA in Lingustics at the University in 1997.

Her in office political journey began in 1994 as a Member of Parliament (MP) for the African National Congress (ANC).

She quickly rose through the ranks, serving as deputy chief whip of the ANC caucus, chairperson of the National Council of Provinces.

She would be appointed by former president Thabo Mbeki as Minister of Education in 2004 for one term, before she was replaced by Angie Motshekga in 2009.

Between 2012 to 2014, former president Jacob Zuma appointed her as Home Affairs Minister, before she took up the Science and Technology portfolio between 2014 and 2018.

Her last Cabinet assignment as Minister of International Relations and Co-operation, between 2019 and 2024, appointed by President Cyril Ramaphosa - she would navigate many tough waters as relations between the US hit rocky waters.

As minister of Education, Pandor introduced reforms that improved access to quality education for millions of students.

She successfully secured the bid to host the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) telescope project in South Africa, a significant scientific achievement.

At Dirco, Pandor played a crucial role in promoting South Africa’s diplomatic interests globally.

Her tireless advocacy for Palestine’s rights and efforts to strengthen African unity have earned her international recognition.

Dr Pandor’s dedication to her country and her people is inspiring.

Her daughter, Aisha, expressed her pride and admiration on X, saying:

“My mom has been a member of the ANC and an activist for as long as I can remember. ... She has led with dedication, integrity, intelligence, wisdom, and a love for her country. I'm so proud of her.”

Aisha’s tribute sparked an outpouring of praise and appreciation from many individuals, including Prof Thuli Madonsela who tweeted:

“Heartfelt gratitude to your mom, former minister of International Relations, Naledi Pandor for her service to our country and the world.

“She has served remarkably. May her next chapter involve a well-deserved rest and some continued contribution to a better country and world.”

UncleT also commented, “Thank you for sharing her with us! She is one of the few who truly served this country with honour and integrity.

“Her legacy remains intact, and it's rather sad that only a few can say the same about their parents' political careers without fear of scandals being brought up.”

Ashraf Garda a radio presenter added, “What a beautiful tribute by a daughter to her mother. Aisha, your mom is the manifestation of a servant leader.

“Naledi Pandor has always led because that was the most impactful way she could serve the people of our country. Highly principled, highly articulate, highly driven, highly focused, Naledi Pandor is a Champion South African.

“Her journey as a member of South Africa’s executive comes to an end, but I know, and you know, she will continue to champion South Africa.”

Dr Pandor’s contributions to South Africa’s education, scientific, and diplomatic landscapes have left a lasting impact.

Her legacy will continue to inspire future generations. Dr Pandor’s life and career serve as a testament to her unwavering commitment to public service.

Her accomplishments will serve as a constant reminder of her commitment, passion, and leadership as they are written in the pages of South African history.