Raymond Zondo is the country’s new Chief Justice

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Raymond Zondo has been acting Chief Justice since. He will assume his role on April 1. Photo: Gallo Images
Raymond Zondo has been acting Chief Justice since. He will assume his role on April 1. Photo: Gallo Images


President Cyril Ramaphosa announced Justice Raymond Zondo as the country’s new Chief Justice on Thursday afternoon.

The decision comes more than a month after the four candidates were interviewed and five months after former Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng retired. Zondo has been acting Chief Justice since. He will assume his role on April 1.

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“The president’s decision follows consultation with the Judicial Service Commission and leaders of [political] parties in the National Assembly on four nominees for appointment as Chief Justice,” reads a statement by the presidency.

Other candidates interviewed for the post included Supreme Court of Appeal Judge President Mandisa Maya, Justice of the Constitutional Court Mbuyiseli Madlanga and Judge President of the Gauteng High Court division Dunstan Mlambo.

Following the interviews, the JSC recommended Maya as the next Chief Justice, which raised eyebrows as the commission is not supposed to make recommendations to the president whose prerogative it is to appoint the Chief Justice.

Once Zondo assumes his new role there will be a vacancy for Deputy Chief Justice. In this regard, the presidency said: “President Ramaphosa has accordingly indicated his intention, once the new Chief Justice assumes office, to nominate Justice Mandisa Maya for the position of Deputy Chief Justice.”

During his interview, Zondo told the JSC that he was honoured to have been nominated for the position. “I consider it an honour and a privilege that the president [Ramaphosa] considered and decided to include me among the names of people that he nominated for consideration for this position.

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“I do not come here thinking that I am entitled to any position. I am not entitled to any position,” he said, adding that it was the prerogative to appoint whom he deemed fit.

“It is not my attitude that because I’m the Deputy Chief Justice, I’m the acting Chief Justice, automatically I am entitled to be appointed as the Chief Justice. It is not my attitude. I do not think that because I’m the acting Chief Justice, I’m the Deputy Chief Justice I am better than the other candidates. I see myself in the same way as the other candidates for whom I have a lot of respect. I have a personal relationship with them. They are very good judges, I have a lot of respect for them,” he said.

Zondo said he had made the cut because the president felt he should be considered for the position. He made himself available because it seemed Ramaphosa wanted to have a choice when he decided who to appoint as the Chief Justice.

Let me start chairperson if I may, with making this point. If I’m appointed as the Chief Justice, I will consider it a really high honour and privilege, but I would not see myself as some super judge. I will see myself as I do, as simply a servant to the people of South Africa.

Zondo has been on the bench for 25 years. He was appointed a judge of the labour court in 1992, becoming the Judge President of the same court in 2000. Since 2012 he has been a judge of the Constitutional Court, making him one of the longest serving judges of the apex court. He has only two years left of his 12-year tenure.

Zondo, who is also the chairperson of the state capture commission, also had to answer questions during his interview, whether his appointment as Chief Justice would not be compromised because of his work in the commission.

One of the commissioners, Engela Schlemmer, said she had a “certain uneasiness” that Zondo had chaired a commission that had to decide on the credibility of Ramaphosa and whether he was guilty of certain actions that were not appropriate.

Schlemmer followed up the question by commissioner Narend Singh:

“The same president that you have to decide upon is the person who may be appointing you if you were to be appointed as the Chief Justice. The other thing that comes into play is the fact that the report is not finished as yet. What can you say to this?” she asked.

Ramaphosa testified before the Zondo commission. Zondo said Ramaphosa’s evidence, like that of all the other witnesses before the commission, would be weighed and assessed.

In the third state capture report, the commission made no findings against Ramaphosa on the R500 000 that Bosasa paid towards his 2017 ANC presidential campaign. The report said the Public Protector, Busisiwe Mkhwebane, had already dealt with the matter.


Bongekile Macupe  

Senior Education Journalist

+27 11 713 9001
69 Kingsway Rd, Auckland Park
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