How Raymond Zondo Forged his Path to the Highest Judicial Position in South Africa
Before Raymond Zondo became South Africa’s chief justice, he was a vibrant young man with dreams. Zondo was born and bred in the rural town of Ixopo, Natal – now KwaZulu-Natal. He attended the University of Zululand and the University of Natal where he bagged a Bachelor of Laws.
An equipped Zondo set out on his journey, and served part of his articles of clerkship at the late Mrs Victoria Mxenge’s law firm in Durban. After Mrs Mxenge was assassinated by apartheid agents for her activism, he had to complete his training else where.
Zondo eventually joined the Durban law firm, Mathe & Zondo Inc. In 1997, he was appointed as a judge of the Labour Court. And was later appointed to the North Gauteng Division of the High Court – formerly Transvaal Provincial Division of the High Court.
Zondo went on to serve as Judge President of the Labour Court and the Labour Appeal Court for 10 years. As Judge President, he served on several Heads of Court committees, including the five-person panel headed by Chief Justice Pius Langa that looked into racial and gender discrimination issues in the legal system. The Heads of Court’s Language Committee was likewise presided over by Zondo.
In 2010, he returned to the High Court’s North Gauteng Division bench. Later on, The legal eagle went on to attain a Master of Laws in Commercial Law, Labour Law, and Patent Law from the University of South Africa.
When Justice Dikgang Moseneke retired from the Constitutional Court in 2017, Judge Raymond Zondo took over as the deputy chief justice. He served as an acting judge for a year prior to being appointed as a judge on the Constitutional Court in 2012.
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Probing South Africa’s State Capture Allegations
Zondo was chosen by Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng to lead the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture, which will look into claims of corruption, fraud, and state capture in the public sector, including state organs. Former public protector Thuli Madonsela recommended that the chief justice (and not the president) appoint the commission’s chair since President Jacob Zuma would be compromised due to allegations of corruption against him. The Commission, commonly referred to as the Zondo Commission, was launched in 2018 and is an ongoing investigation.
Zondo’s path to Chief Justice
Zondo served as an acting Constitutional Court judge from November 2011 to May 2012. He was appointed permanently in September 2012 and is now regarded as a prominent component of the Court’s conservative wing. President Jacob Zuma appointed Zondo to the position of Deputy Chief Justice in June 2017, succeeding Dikgang Moseneke, who retired in 2016. President Cyril Ramaphosa selected Zondo as the new Chief Justice of the South African Constitutional Court on March 10, 2022.
Aside from allegations made in Parliament concerning inflated living allowances Zondo received as Judge President of the Labour Court, which was ultimately resolved, his record as a court official is spotless.
In its submission to the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) in support of Zondo’s appointment to the ConCourt, the General Council of the Bar (GCB) stated 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”.
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