Worldwide praise rolls in as Naledi Pandor leaves parliament

Praises from around the world are rolling in for Dr Naledi Pandor as she steps down from her government position after serving as a Member of Parliament (MP) since 1994.

Pandor is one of the Ministers who is not returning to parliament to serve in the seventh administration.

In February this year, the outgoing International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) Minister alluded to her retirement during an African National Congress (ANC) event in Cape Town.

She stated that she would “in any case not hold public office” after serving in the position since 2019.

Naledi Pandor was replaced by Ronald Lamola

On Sunday, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced his Government of National Unity (GNU) cabinet, appointing Ronald Lamola to replace Pandor.

Lamola had previously served as the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development.

Since then, warm wishes and tributes commemorating Pandor’s work continue to pour in.

DIRCO Director-General, Zane Dangor, described Pandor as one of the most principled and dynamic Ministers he has ever worked with and someone with an “unrivalled” intellect.

Pandor, a former teacher and lecturer, has numerous qualifications under her belt.

In interviews, Pandor credits her love for books and education to her anti-apartheid activist parents, Joe and Fikile Matthews, during the years they spent with her in exile.

Born in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, she grew up in exile. She completed her education in Botswana and London in the United Kingdom, achieving a professional qualification in teaching and a Master’s Degree in Education.

She holds a PhD from the University of Pretoria, a Master’s Degree in General Linguistics from the University of Stellenbosch, and a Diploma in Leadership and Development from the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.

She received honorary doctorates from Cape Peninsula University of Technology, University of Stellenbosch, University of Lisbon, and University College Dublin.

Dangor said Pandor made her mark in all areas she worked in.

“In the last five years, she emerged as one of the world’s leading and valued diplomats,” he added. 

Adoration of a daughter

Pandor’s daughter, Dr Aisha Pandor, took to X, formerly known as Twitter, to also honour her mother.

She shared that her mom has been a member of the ANC and an activist for as long as she can remember.

“I share a birthday with the ANC, and for most of my life, I proudly spent January 8th with other family or friends, while my parents served the party,” she said.

After being elected as an MP in 1994, Naledi Pandor quickly rose to the position of Deputy Chief Whip of the ANC caucus in 1995. Subsequently, she was elected Deputy Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces in 1998 and then became chairperson in 1999.

“Since I was almost nine years old, she has served as a member of South Africa’s democratic government. During those three decades, she has led with dedication, integrity, intelligence, wisdom, a love for her country, and a focus on principles, those held high by her religion, upbringing, country and party,” Pandor’s daughter said.

Aisha mentioned that she admired her mother and was excited about the next phase of her life.

“Yesterday, I told her countless times how much I love her; how much she inspires me, and how proud I am of her. I’m also hoping that as by far the most hardworking person I’ve ever met, she finally takes a bit of well-deserved time for rest.”


Pandor is celebrated for her fearless advocacy for her country’s stance on Gaza. She has persistently called for increased action against Israel’s invasion of Palestine.

Under her leadership, the International Court of Justice ordered Israel to take measures to prevent acts of genocide in Gaza, as well as to provide more assistance to Palestinian civilians. This comes as Israel continues to engage in a conflict with Hamas militants.

The SKA and other ministerial appointments

During her time as Minister of Science and Technology, Pandor and her team successfully secured a competitive bid in 2012 to host part of the future Square Kilometre Array (SKA) telescope in South Africa.

She has also served as the Minister in the Department of Home Affairs and Department of Education.

Serving with integrity

In 2022, she received a Lifetime Achievement award at the Standard Bank Top Women Awards for the role she played in government.

Former Minister and World Bank Group Executive Director, Ayanda Dlodlo, stated that Pandor’s integrity was unparalleled and that her work ethic was exceptional, demonstrating servant leadership.

“What a woman. What a leader… Hope the next chapter of her life is even more fulfilling with more time with her family and many moments of love and laughter.”

The German Ambassador to South Africa, Andreas Peschke, also expressed his thoughts on the matter.

“We would like to thank Dr Naledi Pandor, outgoing Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, for her tireless diplomatic work. For Germany, it was a privilege to work with you. Re a leboga, Mme [Thank you, Mother],” the Ambassador said.

Founder of the Kenya Climate Directory, Reuben Wambui, expressed his disappointment at Pandor’s departure from the Cabinet.

“Naledi is the true embodiment of diplomatic genius, and we will really miss seeing her conduct international affairs on the world stage. Thank you Naledi for your excellent service.”

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