Pansy Tlakula holds a B. Proc degree from the University of the North( now the University of Limpopo), an LL.B degree from the University of the Witwatersrand and an LL.M degree from Harvard University. In 2006 she was awarded an Honourary Doctorate in Legal Studies by the Vaal University of Technology.

Pansy Tlakula has held high profile positions in the academia, public and private sector. These include Senior Law Lecturer at the then University of Bophuthatswana (now North-West University), National Director of the Black Lawyers Association, one of the founding Commissioners of the South Africa Human Rights Commission, Chairperson of the Board of the National Credit Regulator, Chairperson of Council of the then University of the North West ( now North-West University) and the Chancellor of the Vaal University of Technology.

She was also Independent Non-Executive Director of the Bidvest Group Limited and the Chief Electoral Officer and later Chairperson of the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC). Tlakula is the former Chairperson of the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights (AU Organ) and its Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information. She is currently a Member of the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.