Nozizwe Charlotte Madlala-Routledge was born in KwaZulu-Natal on 29 June 1952. She attended Magog and Fairview Schools. Madlala-Routledge matriculated at the Inanda Seminary, a girls’ high school in Durban. She then studied at the Natal and Fort Hare Universities where she obtained a degree in Social Science, majoring in Philosophy and Sociology. In addition, she has diplomas in Adult Education (post-graduate) and Medical Technology. Madlala worked for six years as a Medical Laboratory Technologist.
Madlala-Routledge worked as a researcher at the Centre for Social and Development Studies (CSDS) and at the Centre for Adult Education (CAE) at the University of Natal (now University of KwaZulu-Natal). While at CSDS, she produced a manual on Lay Care for the Elderly. At the CAE, she worked on a research project producing easy readers for newly literate adults.
In 1979, Madlala-Routledge joined the African National Congress (ANC) underground. In 1983, she helped form the Natal Organisation of Women (NOW), an affiliate of the United Democratic Front (UDF). She became NOW’s first chairperson and at the height of the liberation struggle, she resigned from her job and for the next three years worked as a full-time organiser for NOW.
During this time, she was detained and held in solitary confinement for a year. In 1984, Madlala-Routledge joined the South African Communist Party (SACP) and served as the Party’s regional chairperson in Natal. She was later elected onto its Central Committee. After the unbanning of all political organisations, in 1990, Madlala-Routledge served on the National Executive Committee of the Women’s National Coalition and was a delegate at the Codesa talks. She worked as a Managing Secretary for the Transitional Executive Council’s sub-council on the Status of Women and served on the Reconstruction and Development Program’s Task Team to draft policy on the Empowerment of Women.
From 17 June 1999 until 2004, Madlala-Routledge was the Deputy Minister of Defence in the South African Government, the first woman to hold this position. Thereafter, Madlala-Routledge was appointed the Deputy Minister of Health in April 2004 until 2007. She also serves on a portfolio committee on Land Affairs and Parliamentary Committee on the Improvement of the Quality of Life and Status of Women. She is the chairperson of the ANC’s multi-party Parliamentary Women’s Group and of the Parliamentary Women’s Caucus. Madlala-Routledge is the second vice-president of the Co-ordinating Committee of Women Parliamentarians, a body affiliated to the Inter-parliamentary Union. She also serves on a number of organisations, including (WOW), a network of local women leaders.
She has published articles and papers for newspapers, magazines and journals, such as Work in Progress and Speak. She co-authored a chapter on South African Feminism for the book, The Challenge of Local Feminisms: Women's Movements in Global Perspective, which was published in 1995. She also co-authored South Africa’s report to the UN for the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995. Madlala-Routledge is also a member of the Religious Society of Friends also known as the Quakers.
She is the recipient of the Peacemakers in Action Award, awarded by the Tanenbaum Centre for Inter-religious Understanding (New York) (2002).
In 2007, former President Thabo Mbeki dismissed her from her position as Deputy Minister of Health. From 2008 until 10 May 2009 Madlala-Routledge held the position of Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly. On this date she resigned from Parliament a day before she was due to be sworn in again as an MP and less than a week after it was announced that she would be the new ANC caucus chairperson.
Government Communications, , Profile information Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge, Ms from the Department of Government Communications and Information Systems, [online], Available at www.gcis.gov.za. [Accessed on 9 August 2011]|Dept. of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology, (2000),Women marching into the 21st century: wathint' abafazi, wathint' imbokodo, (Shereno Printers), pp.87-88|Du Plessis C. & Davis G. (2009), Madlala-Routledge quits from Independent Online, 6 May, [online], Available at www.iol.co.za [Accessed on 9 August 2011]