Powerful judging panel for Miss South Africa, including Thuli Madonsela and Miss Universe Harnaaz Sandhu announced

By Edward Tsumele, CITYLIFE/ARTS Editor

Both anxiety and excitement are building up among the finalists for the prestigious Miss South Africa title, and considering the stakes in this competition, the pressure build up is understandable.

 Who would not feel such pressure when in fact winning this title means that one of these young women’s life will change for ever on August 13, 2022 at the Sun B et Arena in Pretoria, when a high [powered panel will determine who gets to carry the title of Miss South Africa, taking over from Lalela Mswane. Mswane is relinquishing this title after being declared Miss Supranational.

And of course there is also that small matter of the declared winner suddenly becoming a multi-million on that very stage once the judges declare her the smartest and most beautiful of them all. This is because Miss South Africa pageant has become one of the richest pageants in the world, with the winner laying claim to prizes that are worth R3 collectively.
 And as the date comes closer, the organisers announced judges yesterday, August 1, 2022, and that panel includes none other than the influential former Public Protector of South Africa Thuli Madonsela who during these days answers to the title of academic. The former South African Public Protector will join reigning Miss Universe Harnaaz Sandhu of India on this year’s Miss South Africa judging panel.

The all-female judging line-up comprises of some of the country’s most respected and influential personalities including former Miss Universe Zozibini Tunzi (2019) and Miss World Rolene Strauss (2014) as well as award-winning investigative journalist Devi Sankaree Govender, businesswoman and Miss South Africa 1990 Suzette van der Merwe and actor and TV personality Thando Thabethe.

The Miss South Africa pageant, which takes place at Sun International’s flagship venue, the SunBet Arena at Time Square, Pretoria, promises to be a spectacular and entertainment-packed show and takes place during Women’s Month. Miss South Africa 2022 will be broadcast live on Mzansi Magic (DStv Channel 161) and Mnet (DStv Channel 101) on Saturday, August 13 from 18h30 and streamed for an international audience on the Miss South Africa app.

CITYLIFE/ARTS in this edition introduces the judges who answer questions about the pageant and what they will be looking for in a winner:

Thulisile “Thuli” Madonsela is a South African advocate and professor of law who has held a chair in social justice at Stellenbosch University since January 2018. She served as the Public Protector of South Africa from 2009 to 2016. In 1996, she helped draft the final constitution of South Africa promulgated by then President Nelson Mandela.
What are you looking for in a Miss South Africa?
An inspirational leader who believes in the possibility of and is playing her part to build a more just world. Miss South Africa is symbol of all the beauty that makes South Africa great. She inspires hope, goodness and valour. She aspires to nourish those around her and blooms like a rose amidst the thorns. She has the ability to turn graves into gardens. I am looking for a virtuous woman who walks tall in her covenant blessings. A woman on an urgent mission. A woman who is not confined to one particular role but demonstrates the capacity to live a life filled with purpose. 
What is the No 1 piece of advice that you would give to the 10 finalists competing for the crown?
Accept yourself as you are while working to do better on things that matter and if you fall treat that as school fees for lessons learned and bounce forward as quickly as you can wisened by the fall. Different seasons of life bring mixed emotions. You might find yourself feeling anxious, nervous, excited, content frazzled or even burdened but remember the challenges you are facing today don’t define you. God clearly chose you to experience this journey for a reason. Girdle yourselves with strength (spiritually, mentally, physically); there is a sacred light that serves as a lamp unto your feet. You were called for a time such as this so be strong and courageous, be loving and generous, stay confident and full of wisdom.

Harnaaz Sandhu was crowned Miss Universe last December, taking the crown back to India for the first time in 20 years. She draws her inspiration from her mother who broke generations of patriarchy to become a successful gynaecologist. Deeply conscious of the privilege her mother’s struggles have gifted her, Sandhu is a strong advocate for women’s empowerment, particularly their constitutional rights to education, careers and their freedom of choice. She is an actor with two Punjabi films slated for release this year.
Is this your first visit to South Africa and what are you most looking forward to?
This is my very first trip to the beautiful South Africa. It has been on my bucket list since I was 14-years-old to visit and witness the beauty of this wonderful country and, most importantly, to learn more about its heritage and culture.
What will you be looking for in a potential Miss South Africa?
South Africa has been a strong contender every year at Miss Universe and it’s my true honour to meet the beautiful young women who are competing for the crown this year. I’m looking forward to learning more about their personalities and seeing them in person. I am excited to see who the new winner will be who will proudly represent her country.
What is the No 1 piece of advice that you would give to the 10 finalists competing for the crown?
My only advice to them is to be authentic! Use every minute and moment to showcase your true self, not only to the judges but to the people you are working with, those who are working on the production, your fans and the global audience who is watching! This is your time to shine and make the most out of this magical storyline you have chosen to be a part of. We all know “only one can win!” but they should emerge from this experience a  whole new person with the power to break stigmas, reach limitless heights and feel irreplaceable and unstoppable on their next journey.



Zozibini Tunzi was the third Miss South Africa to be crowned Miss Universe in 2019. Tunzi – who was one of the judges in 2020 – makes her acting debut in The Woman King which is scheduled for release later this year. The American historical epic tells the remarkable story of the Agojie, the all-female unit of warriors who protected the African Kingdom of Dahomey (in present-day Benin) in the 1800s and also stars Viola Davis and John Boyega.
What will you be looking for in a potential Miss South Africa?
I will be looking for someone who has a unique voice and has a strong conviction in who they are and what they stand for. These are usually the people who know how to use their platform to contribute positively to humanity. They must also be sincere in their approach to the crown because this says a lot about who they will be as the reigning queen.
What is the No 1 piece of advice that you would give to the 10 finalists competing for the crown?
Every single thing and stage you have gone through in your life has prepared you for this moment. There’s no mistake. You are there because you belong, so act like you belong, walk like you belong and speak like you belong. 
One of the hardest parts of the contest is the questions posed by the judges at the end. Right now, what is a question you would ask that springs to mind?
We all go through challenges. What was that one challenge in your life and did it contribute to the woman you are today? 

Rolene Strauss was the third South African to wear the Miss World crown. She is currently chairperson of the non-profit organisation The Strauss Foundation. Strauss – who is a qualified medical doctor – received her master’s degree in Philosophy and Management Coaching (Cum Laude) at the University of Stellenbosch Business School this year, released her new book Rediscover Your Self Confidence and is a successful transformational life coach.
What will you be looking for in a potential Miss South Africa?
A Miss South Africa to me is a well-rounded, beautiful (of course) and balanced woman. Someone who can be vulnerable, yet strong; someone who is both real and aspirational; a woman who is content with who she is yet striving to be the best version of herself; and someone who can represent our beautiful country internationally! I have judged the Miss South Africa and Miss World pageant finales in 2018. My judging criteria mainly stays the same but I get more particular regarding certain criteria as I become older and get a more objective view of what truly is important, not only in pageantry, but in life in general.
What is the No 1 piece of advice that you would give to the 10 finalists competing for the crown?
Know your boundaries when it comes to handling criticism. Taking the right type of criticism to heart can truly help you grow and reach your full potential but others can steal your joy, and authenticity and turn you into someone you are not. You are opening yourself up to all kinds of criticism during this journey (and beyond) so decide beforehand what your boundaries are. Of course, be open to growth, but don’t let this change your authentic being.
One of the hardest parts of the contest is the questions posed by the judges at the end. Right now, what is a question you would ask that springs to mind?
As a Miss South Africa, you will be faced with criticism from various different platforms and people. Learning how to handle criticism in a healthy way will become one of your most valuable skills. How do you handle criticism?

Devi Sankaree Govender is an award-winning investigative television journalist who has spent the past 29 years in the media after starting out on radio before moving to print and television. Govender, an MBA graduate, worked for Carte Blanche for 18 years and gained a reputation for being fearless in highlighting corruption and crime. She hosts The Devi Show which airs on eTV and eNCA.
Why did you decide to join the Miss SA judging panel and what do you think you will bring to the table?
I didn’t think twice. Miss South Africa is not just a beauty pageant where young women rely on their physical beauty to earn a crown, win fantastic prizes and gain some fame for a year. Miss South Africa is a powerful leadership opportunity designed to arm young women with a wide range of skills and strengthen their voices, so that even when their reigns are over, those same voices can be heard, loud and clear. I can easily spot an act. That’s what nearly 30 years of investigative journalism has taught me. So, I’d like to think that I bring a large slice of reality to the table.
What will you be looking for in a potential Miss South Africa?
Intelligence. Frankness. Boldness. A strong drive to bring about social change. Agility and a sharp sense of humour!
What is the No 1 piece of advice that you would give to the 10 finalists competing for the crown?
Be authentic. Walk like you. Talk like you. Nobody does YOU better than you!
Anything else you would like to add?
Our country stands on the shoulders of women who refused to give up yet South Africa is still one of the most dangerous places to live, especially if you are a woman. Miss South Africa isn’t just an ambassador for our country but a voice for active citizenry – because change has to come.

After her reign as Miss South Africa in 1990, Suzette van der Merwe started a successful business career including a role managing Cell C’s women sponsorship properties which included a five-year headline sponsorship of Miss South Africa from 2014 to 2019.
Is this your first time as a Miss South Africa final judge?
This is my second time. The first time I joined the Miss South Africa final selection panel was in 1993 when Jacqui Mofokeng became Miss South Africa.
What will you bring to the panel?
As a former Miss South Africa – combined with my five-year involvement in the Miss South Africa organising committee  – I believe I am well acquainted with the selection criteria and protocols. As a mother of a 20-year-old daughter, I humbly claim an understanding of this generation of young women. They are not scared to use their voices and not prepared to simply stand on the sidelines when it comes to important social issues. They care deeply about equality, diversity, inclusivity and body positivity. To Miss South Africa Organisation’s credit, it has adopted and represented many of these values and, as such, the winner reflects what is happening in broader society.
What will you be looking for in a potential Miss South Africa?
Similar to our national sports teams and stars, Miss South Africa contributes to nation building and pride, especially when they excel internationally and hold the South African flag high. I’ll be looking for that unique spark and qualities that will not only inspire the hearts of the people of our nation, but a winner who will represent us on the world stage. The ideal candidate has presence, is authentic, articulate and has a “servant attitude”. She is confident, hardworking and ambitious with a clear vision of the goals she wants to achieve and the legacy she wants to be remembered for.

Thando Thabethe is an actress and radio personality. She is currently host of 94.7 Drive with Thando and has played leading lady in some of South Africa’s biggest television productions including HousekeepersHow To Ruin Christmas and Reyka. She is also the founder of Thabootys Underwear and Shapewear and a Forbes Africa’s 30 Under 30 graduate. Thabethe was also one of the judges who chose the Top 10 this year.
You are the only judge on the finale panel who judged from the Top 30. How do you believe the contestants have developed and grown since you first met them?
Being a part of this incredible journey with these young women has been life changing; not only for the girls but for all involved. The love and care that the Miss South Africa Organisation offers these women is simply spectacular and encourages them to be the best versions of themselves. I have seen women come in as a diamond in the rough to transform into incredible ladies who are not afraid to shine. The Miss South Africa pageant is a testament of how hard work can reap incredible results.
What will you be looking for in a potential Miss South Africa?
I will be looking for a lady with a strong head on her shoulders, one who is aware of herself and her power and is ready to represent South Africa.
What is the No 1 piece of advice that you would give to the 10 finalists competing for the crown?
Have fun! This allows you to be your most authentic self, we see when the real you shows up, be you because no one can do that better than you.

Miss South Africa 2022 will take home prizes and sponsorships worth more than R3 million. The Top 10 competing for the crown is: Anarzade Omar, Ayanda Thabethe, Itumeleng Parage, Keaoleboga Nkashe, Lebogang Mahlangu, Luvé Meyer, Luyanda Zuma, Ndavi Nokeri, Pearl Ntshehi and Tamsyn Jack.

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