Before being elected on 22 May 2014 as Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP), Ms Modise served as Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Defence and the Joint Standing Committee on Defence. She was first elected as an MP in 1994 and has served as Speaker of the North West Provincial Legislature from 2004 to 2009 and Premier for the North West Provincial Government from 2010 to 2014. She was also Chairperson of the Ad Hoc Committee for the ratification of the Convention to Eliminate all forms of Discrimination against Women in the National Assembly.
The youngest of six children, Ms Modise was born on 25 December 1959 in Huhudi Township near Vryburg in North West. Her formative years were shaped by her father, Mr Frans Modise, an ANC activist and railway worker.
The student uprising in 1976 coincided with the apartheid government’s move to include the Vryburg area into the “homeland” of Bophuthatswana. The people of Huhudi joined the general opposition to these events and during the resulting aggressive reaction from the police, the teenage Ms Modise was shot at by police one day as she was walking down the road. This experience strengthened her resolve to fight apartheid.
In 1976, she slipped into Botswana to join the ANC and was later transferred to Angola where she received military training. At times, only 30 women were among the 500 trainees and on some occasions, Ms Modise was the only women in the camp.
After training, she worked in the camps as a political commissar. Later, she became a commander. Ms Modise has recalled this as a tough period, as some of the men did not want to be commanded by a young woman.
Having undergone military and political training, Ms Modise was the first woman to return to South Africa to organise the townships to fight against the apartheid regime. She was arrested in 1979, and received an eight-year jail sentence, which she served at Kroonstad Prison.
Ms Modise served as the Deputy Secretary-General of the ANC from 2007 to 2012. She also served as a member of its National Executive Committee, but has remained committed to the Huhudi community. She started the ANC Womens’ League (ANCWL) branch in Huhudi and is a founder member of the Lesedi Community Clinic. She served on the ANC National Executive from 1994 to 2012, and was Deputy President of the ANC Women's League from 1994 to 2004 and served as its President in 2004.
While in Kroonstad Prison, Ms Modise completed her matric and a BCom degree in Industrial Psychology and Economics. She was released in 1988. Ms Modise has three children.