Reference Group

The Democracy Works Foundation Reference Group consists of individuals who exemplify, through their accomplished careers, a clear commitment to democracy, development, human rights and a just society.  They support the vision and work of our organisation.

Max Sisulu

Mr Sisulu is the former Speaker of Parliament, South Africa and currently a Research Fellow at the Wits School of Governance. He holds a Masters degree in Economics from the Plekhanov National Institute in Moscow and a Masters degree in Public Administration from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in the United States. He participated in the prestigious Govan Mbeki research fellowship at the University of Amsterdam in Holland.

Tomaz SalomãoLinkedIn

Dr. Salomão served as the Executive Secretary of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) from August 2005 to September 2013. He has made significant contributions to the development of Mozambique and the region, serving his country in senior positions for a period of 22 years. Previously he was the Minister of Transport and Communications from 2000 to 2004 and Minister of Finance and Planning from 1994 to 1999. He served as Governor for Mozambique at the African Development Bank, International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.


He is a visiting Research Fellow at the Wits School of Governance at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. He is a Certified Public Accountant with a Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts Degree in Economics.

Brigalia BamURL

Dr Brigalia Hlophe Bam is a trained Social Worker and Educationist. She has a Masters Degree in Communications from the University of Chicago and also holds four honorary doctorates from universities in South Africa and Canada.

Dr Bam has served as Chairperson of the Independent Electoral Commission of South Africa from 1999 to 2011 following tenure as General Secretary of the South African Council of Churches which began in 1988. This was immediately after a long term of office as one of the Programme Directors of the World Council of Churches in Switzerland which started in 1967.

Dr Bam is a board member of International Idea and  has served as Deputy Chair Board member of the South African Broadcasting Corporation, is a Council member of the University of Transkei, Deputy Chair of Council of the University of South Africa, Chancellor of the University of Port Elizabeth, Board member of Institute for Global Dialogue, and Founder president of the Women’s Development Foundation.

Justice Edwin CameronURL

Edwin Cameron is Justice of the Constitutional Court of South Africa. Former South African President Nelson Mandela appointed him an acting judge and later a judge of the High Court. Between 1999-2000, Edwin Cameron served for a year as an Acting Justice at the Constitutional Court, and in 2000 he was appointed a Judge of Appeal in the Supreme Court of Appeal.

Zeinab BadawiURL

Zeinab Badawi is one of the best known broadcast journalists working in the field today covering and presenting current events such as ‘Hard Talk’ for the BBC and the ‘World Debates and Intelligence Squared Debates’ on BBC which is featured on both radio and television. Having worked in broadcasting for over twenty years she presents live bulletins on BBC World News the UK’s first daily news bulletin focusing primarily on international news.

Zeinab studied Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Oxford University and a Master’s Degree on Middle East History and Anthropology at London University. She has been a board member of the British Council, a former Chair of the London based freedom of speech campaign organisation, Article 19, and a board member of the Overseas Development Institute. In 2009 she was awarded ‘International TV Personality of the Year’ by the Association of International Broadcasters, and was named in Power-list 2012 as one of Britain’s top 100 most influential members of the black community.

Thandika MkandawireLinkedIn

Professor Thandika Mkandawire currently holds the Olof Palme Professor for Peace with the Institute for Future Studies in Stockholm. He is former director of the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA), a senior research fellow at the Centre for Development Research in Copenhagen having taught at the Universities of Stockholm and Zimbabwe respectively.


He previously was Director of the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development and the first person to take on the new position of Chair in African Development at the London School of Economics (LSE). His research interests are the political economy of development in Africa, development theory, economic policy and development and social policy in developing countries.

John GithongoTwitterURL

Githongo is the CEO of Inuka Kenya Trust. A former diplomat, journalist, and academic, Githongo served as Vice President of Policy and Advocacy at World Vision International and Senior Associate Member at St Antony’s College Oxford where he is still associated as a Senior Common Room Member.

With a focus on fighting corruption, Githongo has served as Permanent Secretary, Office of the President of Kenya, between 2003 and 2005 and prior to that he was Director of Transparency International-Berlin and Executive Director of Transparency International in Kenya.

Adebayo Olukoshi

Professor Adebayo Olukoshi is currently Director of the UN African Institute for Economic Development and Planning (IDEP). He is a Professor of International Economic Relations. Until March 2009, he was Executive Secretary of the Council for Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA). He has also previously served as Director of Research at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA) in Lagos; Senior Research Fellow/Research Programme Coordinator of the Nordic Africa Institute (NAI) in Uppsala, and Senior Programme Staff at the South Centre in Geneva. His research interests centre on the politics of economic relations, an area on which he has published extensively.

Roeland van de Geer

Ambassador van de Geer is  Head of the European Union in Tanzania since 2015. He has previously served in this position  during 2011- 2015 in  South Africa. His background is in public administration, political science and international relations. He started his working life in 1978 as a lecturer and research fellow at the National University of Lesotho, on secondment from the Free University in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

When in Lesotho, from 1978 to 1982, he  was the project manager of Public Administration Research and Curriculum Development Project and an advisor to the Government of Lesotho on local government and decentralisation with the World Bank funded Maseru Urban Development Project. In 1982, van de Geer joined the Dutch foreign service where he continued to work within the SADC region. In 1987 he returned for a three-year period to the Free University in Amsterdam where he focussed his academic work on the SADC region. In 1990, upon his return to the Dutch Foreign Ministry, he was appointed as Head of the Southern Africa Region and from 1994 to 1998 he served as the Dutch Ambassador to Mozambique.

Following postings as Director for North and South America, as Africa Director and as Dutch Ambassador to Afghanistan, he was appointed in 2007 as the European Union's Special Representative for the Great Lakes Region, a post he held until his appontment to South Africa in 2011.

Adila HassimURL

Hassim is the co-founder and head of litigation and legal services at SECTION27, a public interest litigation centre based in Johannesburg. She previously held the position at AIDS Law Project, and is also a founder and serving Board member of Corruption Watch.

Hassim is a member of the Johannesburg Bar, and has clerked for two Constitutional Court judges. She is a prolific writer, having co-authored books on human rights and health law, and has contributed to various newspapers, law and health journals. Hassim is also currently an editor of the Constitutional Court Review. She is an honorary research fellow at the University of the Witwatersrand School of Law, and a member of the National Association of Democratic Lawyers.

Tseliso Thipanyane

Tseliso is CEO of Safer South Africa Foundation and an independent consultant on Human Rights, Democracy and Good Governance. He is also an adjunct lecturer in law at Columbia University School of Law and Ramapo College of New Jersey lecturing on African Politics and Human Rights. He was previously Chief Executive Officer of the South African Human Rights Commission where he managed the development and implementation of policies and strategic plans of the Commission.

He has done much guest lecturing, speaking and writing engagements including being a Feature writer on human rights, democracy and good governance issues in the African continent for Afrobeatradio.net and a columnist for SEADiaspora, a blog on African Affairs.

Stephen ChanURL

Professor Stephen Chan, OBE has twice been Dean at London University's School of Oriental and African Studies where he holds the Chair of International Relations. He was awarded his OBE in 2010 for "services to African and higher education". Professor Chan was an international civil servant with the Commonwealth Secretariat and helped pioneer modern election observation at the independence elections in Zimbabwe in 1980. He was afterwards invited to Oxford twice, as a visiting fellow. He has worked throughout Africa, most recently in South Sudan and has worked throughout Africa on diplomatic and academic assignments. Professor Chan continues to work in Africa regularly and was elected Honorary Professor of Humanities by the University of Joburg and has been Honorary Professor at the University of Zambia, winning the 2010 International Studies Association prize, Eminent Scholar in Global Development. He has published 28 scholarly books, 5 volumes of poetry,  2 novels and broadcasts and lectures internationally.

David LewisLinkedIn

David Lewis is Executive Director of Corruption Watch, a not-for-profit NGO dedicated to combatting corruption. Between 1994 and 1996 Lewis was Special Advisor to the Minister of Labour and co-chaired the Presidential Commission on Labour Market Policy. He previously served as a member of the Task Team responsible for drafting the Competition Act. With the promulgation of the Act in 1999 Lewis was appointed Chairperson of the Competition Tribunal, a position which he held until 2009.


He was Chairman of the Steering Group of the International Competition Network. Lewis has served on the boards of the National Research Foundation, the Industrial Development Corporation, the Johannesburg Development Agency and South African Airways. In 2010, UCT awarded Lewis an Honorary Doctorate in Economic Sciences. He is the author and editor of several books including the recently published ‘Thieves at the Dinner Table’, an account of the first 10 years of competition law enforcement in South Africa.

Roel von MeijenfeldtTwitterLinkedInURL

Roel is a leading international expert on supporting democratic transitions and consolidation. For three decades he has worked for the advancement of democracy in over 30 countries on all continents. An active participant in the major international democracy networks, he has worked with all leading international organisations with mandates to support democratic governance.


He was the first executive director of the Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy (NIMD) and led the organisation for nearly 10 years. Prior to NIMD, he held a senior executive position at the Institute for Democracy and Election Assistance (International IDEA) and initiated the establishment of the European Partnership for Democracy (EPD). He helped pioneer the inclusive dialogue methodology in his work at IDEA and NIMD. Based on full local ownership – recognising that democracy has to be built from within – these dialogues result in substantial consensus about national democratic reform agendas, including links to necessary economic reforms.


To read publications by Roel von Meijenfeldt on our website please click here.

Nerine KahnLinkedIn

Nerine is former Director of the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA). She is a qualified attorney with a BA, LLB and advanced Diploma in Labour Law. She practiced for six years where she mainly specialized in labour law. She was then employed by the CCMA as a commissioner for six years, as a senior CCMA commissioner she was involved in a range of activities.

In addition to arbitrating, mediating and conciliating, she was involved in the development of the CCMA screening process, training for commissioners and the initial dispute management training for trade unions and employers. She was previously Chief Director for Labour Relations in the Department of Labour. In that capacity she was responsible for the Labour Relations Act (including being the government representative on the CCMA Governing Body), Basic Conditions of Employment Act and the Employment Equity Act.

Frank La Rue

Frank La Rue is a Guatemalan labor and human rights law expert. From 2008 to August 2014 he served as the UN Special Rapporteur for the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression. Following his term at the UN, La Rue was appointed as a member of the International Board of Trustees of ARTICLE 19, the Global Campaign for Free Expression in 2015. Currently, La Rue is the Executive Director of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Europe. He is the founder of the Center for Legal Action for Human Rights (CALDH) and has been involved in the promotion of human rights for over 25 years.

He served as Presidential Commissioner for Human Rights in Guatemala for President Oscar Berger, as a Human Rights Adviser to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Guatemala, President of the Governing Board of the Central American Institute for the Study of Social Democracy (DEMOS) and as a consultant to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. He has directed a news magazine called Debate, hosted numerous radio programs in the U.S. and Guatemala on the subject of political rights and lectured extensively in his fields of expertise.

Siphokazi MthathiLinkedIn

Siphokazi Mthathi is Executive Director of Oxfam South Africa, with two decades of experience in the human rights and social justice movement in Southern Africa. Previously she was general secretary of the Treatment Action Campaign, the South Africa Director of Human Rights Watch, regional advisor at the Coalition of African Lesbians, and most recently Manager for South Africa and Southern Africa programs at Norwegian People’s Aid. She is also a trustee of the boards of Open Society Institute for Southern Africa, the One in Nine Campaign, and the Women on Farms project.

Mark Heywood

Mark Heywood is the Executive Director SECTION27. SECTION27 was established in May 2010. It incorporates the AIDS Law Project (ALP), one of South Africa's most successful post-apartheid human rights organizations. SECTION27 is a public interest law center that seeks to influence, develop and use the law to protect, promote and advance human rights.

Mr. Heywood joined the ALP in 1994, becoming its head in 1997 and executive director in 2006. In 1998, he was one of the founders of the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC). In 2007, he was elected as deputy chairperson of the South African National AIDS Council. He is also the current chairperson of the UNAIDS Reference Group on HIV/AIDS and Human Rights. In 2009, Mr. Heywood was appointed as a member of the Ministerial Advisory Committee on National Health Insurance.

Mr. Heywood has written extensively on HIV, human rights and the law, including co-editing the AIDS and the Law Resource Manual and Health & Democracy: A guide to human rights, health law and policy in post-Apartheid South Africa. He has been part of the legal teams of the ALP and TAC that have been involved in all the major litigation around HIV and human rights.

Kgosi LetlapeURL

Dr Kgosi Letlape is the Executive Director of the Tshepang Trust. In addition, he is the President of the African Medical Association, a former chairperson of the South African Medical Association (SAMA), and a past president of the World Medical Association (WMA) - the global representative body for physicians worldwide.

Dr.
Letlape made history by becoming the first black person to qualify as an ophthalmologist in South Africa during the apartheid years, and was the first black person to be elected as WMA President. Together with Nelson Mandela, the Nelson Mandela Foundation and the South African Medical Association (SAMA), he spearheaded the establishment of the Tshepang Trust, which facilitates the treatment of HIV positive patients.

Mohamed Fazel RanderaLinkedIn

Dr. Randera is a health, human rights and governance professional with over 30 years experience in healthcare, human rights, public affairs, public and investor relations and governance. He has extensive experience in HIV and AIDS, Health Policy, obstetrics and gynaecology having been a task team member that developed and wrote the comprehensive plan on HIV and AIDS for South Africa, the Draft Health Charter and the 2007 National Strategic Plan on HIV and AIDS.


He served as a commissioner on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and was involved with the drafting process and authorship of the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Randera is the former Chairperson of the Human Rights and Ethics Committee South African Medical Association, past board Member of the Human Rights Committee of South Africa having held numerous appointments to boards and committees across various sectors.

Nadia El-ImamTwitterURL

El-Imam is the co-founder and CEO of Edgeryders, an online community and distributed think-tank of citizen experts drawn from across the globe. She was nominated for the Swedish Parliament in 2014 and is currently prototyping a groundbreaking new methodology for UNDP.

El-Imam has co-authored a number of books and policy publications, held keynotes at national conferences on growth and economic development, and commanded high-profile speaking engagements. A polyglot and global citizen with roots in Africa, Asia, and Europe, she has extensive experience working with international organisations in diverse and dynamic contexts.

Fareed ZakariaURL

Dr. Zakaria is best known as the popular host of CNN’s international affairs program, Fareed Zakaria GPS. Based in New York, he is also Editor at Large of TIME, a Washington Post columnist, and a New York Times bestselling author.

Fittingly, Dr. Zakaria was described in 1999 by Esquire Magazine as “the most influential foreign policy adviser of his generation.” In 2010, Foreign Policy named him one of the top 100 global thinkers. He has received honorary degrees from several universities including Brown, the University of Miami, and Oberlin College.

Jules Hoareau

Jules Hoareau is the Chief Executive Officer of the Seychelles Children’s Foundation previously working as a radio and TV broadcaster for over 20 years. He is the President of SADC, Council of NGOs and was previously the vice chair of the same organisation. Jules is also the first Chairperson of the national platform for Civil Society in Seychelles (CEPS). He served on the Trafficking in Persons’ national board, as a member of the National Tender Board and as the vice chairperson of the Tobacco Control Board. He is an activist in human rights, good governance and democracy and was the first chairperson of the Association for Rights, Information and Democracy (ARID). He is a lead researcher for Global integrity based in the US and is actively engaged in the promotion of human rights having served as an election observer in many countries. He also served as a relief worker in Sri Lanka and voluntary staff at BPA in India and is trained in peace support operations with both the EASF and SADC.

Fatima ShabodienTwitterURL

Fatima Shabodien has served as the Country Director of Action Aid SA since 2012. She brought to the organisation her rich history as a feminist political activist dating back to her activism within the liberation movement high school years in the 1980’s.

Through her activism, studies and work experience she has honed her expertise in the areas of rural development, women’s rights and peace building. She has a BA majoring in Anthropology from the University of the Western Cape, a Masters in International Peace Studies from the University of Notre Dame in the United States, and an MPhil in Development Studies from the Institute for Development Studies (IDS) at Sussex University. Her work and studies have included living experiences in the USA, UK, Ethiopia and Indonesia across the donor, government and civil society sectors.

John RowettLinkedIn

Rowett is a scholar, an international administrator and a social entrepreneur who divides his time between Johannesburg, New York and London (Oxford). Working closely with governments, civil society and the corporate sector in Africa and Asia, Rowett is dedicated to pioneering new approaches to tertiary education, cultural studies, development and international partnerships. He was warden of Rhodes House, CEO of the Mandela Rhodes Foundation and General Secretary of the Commonwealth University Association.

He was honoured by the British Government for his services to South Africa/UK relations and in Nigeria by President Obasanjo, as Chancellor of the University of Benin, for his services to tertiary education and development in Africa.

Josephine OsikenaURL

Josephine Osikena is Director of the Foreign Policy Centre. In addition to providing strategic and operational leadership at the FPC, her pioneering research is principally focused on Africa south of the Sahara.

Prior to joining the FPC, Osikena completed various interim assignments in central and local government, including at the Cabinet Office, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and the London Borough of Tower Hamlets.

Abie Dithlake

Boichoko Abraham Ditlhake, is the Executive Director of SADC Council of NGOs and was previously the Executive Director for the South African National NGO Coalition (SANGOCO). He served as programme manager and later as a board member of the National Land Committee where he was a senior field worker and programme coordinator for the Farmworkers Research and Resource Project.

He is the former President of the SADC Council of NGOs and was responsible for convening and co-ordinating the Civil Society component of the World Conference Against Racism (WCAR) and the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD). His past memberships include being on the UNDP Steering Committee for the South African Country Report on Human Development and is a past member of the Research Committee at the Centre for Civil Society, University of KwaZulu-Natal.

Kevin FleischerLinkedIn

Described in his own words as a ‘maverick angel investor’, he is a founder member and former CEO of Blue Catalyst, established by the Gauteng government as a venture capital support network. In the late 90s, he founded Letsema Investments and as MD was involved in early BEE policy formulation, the setting up of labour union investment groups and the structuring of leveraged investments in listed companies.

Fleischer is also a South African film producer and photographer. His career has always mixed creative and financial. Active in film, art, technology, property, publishing, Fleischer started his career in corporate finance at Morgan Stanley, New York and London, before becoming a partner in a structured-finance team based in London. He holds a BA in Economics from Wits, an M.Phil. (Finance) from Oxford and is a Fellow of the Aspen Institute’s Africa Leadership Initiative with extensive experience in the small business sector.

Nozizwe Madlala-RoutledgeLinkedInURL

Nozizwe has a long history of campaigning for human rights and supporting civil society organisations that deepen and advance democratic participation. She served as a Member of Parliament from 1994 to 2009 holding the post of Deputy Speaker, Deputy Minister of Health and Deputy Minister of Defence. Nozizwe participated in a delegation to the Convention for a Democratic South Africa (CODESA) that negotiated the transition from apartheid. She also served in the Constituent Assembly that drew up South Africa’s Constitution.

She helped establish the African Women’s Peace Table, a partnership forum for integrating women’s perspectives on issues of peace and security in Africa and set up the women’s human rights organisation ‘Embrace Dignity’ as well as ‘Democracy from Below’, a grassroots movement to strengthen participation in our democracy. Nozizwe is a recipient of the Tanenbaum Peacemakers Award, an honorary doctorate from Haverford College, Pennsylvania and a human rights award from the University of KwaZulu-Natal. She holds an Honours Degree from the University of Cape Town.

Netsanet BelayLinkedIn

Netsanet Belay, an Ethiopian national, is currently the Africa Director - Research and Advocacy at Amnesty International. Prior to this role, Belay was Director of Policy and Research at CIVICUS, World Alliance for Citizen’s Participation in Johannesburg, South Africa.

He has more than 10 years of experience in promoting and defending human rights at a national, regional and global level and is a trained human rights lawyer. Belay spent over two years in prison in Ethiopia as a ‘Prisoner of Conscience’ for his role in leading human rights activism in the country.

Frank MeintjiesLinkedIn

Based in Johannesburg, South Africa, Frank Meintjies has worked in the public, private and not-for-profit sectors. Frank is director of Hivos South Africa. Hivos South Africa is undergoing an indigenisation process and will soon be known as the Hlanganisa Institute for Development.  With Edgar Pieterse, he has edited Voices of the Transition, a text dealing with key issues, crucial debates and hopeful visions regarding South Africa's democracy. He is also author of Sideview, a collection of columns and articles dealing with transformation issues. In addition, Meintjies is co-founder of Isandla, a development think tank geared to enhancing innovation in development. He has, furthermore, contributed over the years to debates on cultural matters.

Denis KadimaURL

Denis Kadima is Executive Director of the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa (EISA). Before this, he worked for the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI) as the Senior Programme Manager in Windhoek, Namibia, and Resident Director in Lesotho. Since joining EISA, Mr. Kadima has expanded the organization’s geographic and programmatic scope, which now covers the whole of sub-Saharan Africa and encompasses not only elections but also selected areas in the Democracy and Governance field (political party strengthening, legislative support, local governance, etc).

Kadima is currently completing a Ph.D on political party coalitions in Africa at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. He founded EISA’s Journal of African Elections, an accredited journal, has published extensively on elections, democracy and governance and was former head of the UN Integrated Referendum and Electoral Division (UNIRED).

Danny SriskandarajahURL

Dr Dhananjayan (Danny) Sriskandarajah is Secretary General and CEO of CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation since January 2013. His previous posts include Director of the Royal Commonwealth Society, Interim Director of the Commonwealth Foundation, and Deputy Director of the Institute for Public Policy Research.

Danny is the author of numerous reports and academic articles on international migration and economic development, writes and appears regularly in the media on a range of topics. He sits on several boards, including those of the Baring Foundation, International Alert and Ockenden International, and has been a consultant to several international organisations. He holds a degree from the University of Sydney, and an MPhil and DPhil from the University of Oxford, where he was a Rhodes Scholar. In 2012, he was honoured by the World Economic Forum as a Young Global Leader.

Linda Vilakazi-Tselane

Linda is Head of the Executive Leadership Programme at the School of Education at Wits University. She was a former CEO of BRIDGE, a non-governmental organisation that links innovators in education and was the first black president of the Wits University Student Representative Council. Vilakazi-Tselane is a former Human Resources Director for the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and has served on a number of Ministerial Task Teams on higher education.

Ernest Theron

Ernest is an accomplished organizational development, human resources, Industrial and Labour Relations, Employment Equity, Equal Opportunity, and Diversity practitioner. Currently studying towards a PhD he has over 25 years of experience in business leadership, management and human resources in the private and public sector. He comes with vast experience in leading multi-dimensional negotiations, lobbying support and fostering an environment of cooperation between diverse groups across different sectors.

He is chairperson of the Strandfontein Social Economic Development Forum, serves in a voluntary capacity on the Exco of the Western Cape Social and Economic Development Forum and is on the Advisory Board of Action Aid South Africa (AASA). His past posts include being CEO of the Western Cape Provincial Development Council. In the labour movement Ernest has held several positions of national treasurer, national president and national vice president of the Food and Allied Workers Union (FAWU).