Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo was thrust in the limelight on Monday when the much anticipated commission of inquiry into state capture kicked off.
Under his lead, the commission is expected to uncover the details of allegations of state capture, a mammoth task given the extent of corruption in recent years.
Is Zondo up to the task?
The 58-year-old was chosen to replace Justice Dikgang Moseneke as deputy chief justice of the Constitutional Court when the latter retired in 2017. He has been a judge in the Constitutional Court since 2012, before which he was in an acting position for one year.
Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng appointed him to chair the state capture commission after former public protector Thuli Madonsela recommended the chief justice appoint the chair of the commission due to the fact that President Jacob Zuma would be compromised owing to allegations of corruption against him.
Zondo comes from humble beginnings. He was born in the rural town of Ixopo, KwaZulu-Natal, in 1960. He holds a BJuris degree from the University of Zululand and three LLMs from the universities of KwaZulu-Natal and Unisa. As one of nine children, he put himself first through high school and then university with bursaries he earned by working hard and getting good grades, he told the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) during his interview for the deputy chief justice position.
When he finished matric, he secured a bursary to study law at the University of Zululand but was concerned about who would take care of his mother and siblings – his father was a labourer who worked in Johannesburg and didn't really support the family. So, he secured a loan in the form of monthly vouchers from a local store owner for his mother before he went off to law school.
After his BJuris degree, he worked at the Legal Resources Centre to secure funding to further his studies. He applied and received a bursary from the Sunday Tribune. After his LLB degree he started doing his articles with the firm of the famous anti-apartheid activist Victoria Mxenge. When she was murdered in 1985, he moved to Mthembu & Co and after that to another firm, Chennels Albertyn.
Zondo later completed three LLM degrees, one in Trademark Law, another in Competition Law and the third in Patent Law.
Zondo has been a judge for more than 21 years now. He was first appointed to the Labour Court in 1997. He quickly ascended the ranks to become Judge President of the Labour Appeal Court and the Labour Court in 2000, a position he served in for 10 years.
Aside from questions raised in Parliament about inflated living allowances Zondo received in his capacity as Judge President of the Labour Court, which was later cleared up, his record as an officer of the court is squeaky clean.
The General Council of the Bar (GCB) found in its submission to the JSC in support of Zondo's appointment to the ConCourt that he "enjoys a reputation for integrity and ethical behaviour" and "displayed a firm commitment to advancing the cause of a constitutional state founded on constitutional principles", HuffPost SA reported.