Legal fraternity, political parties back Ramaphosa’s appointment of Zondo as new Chief Justice and Maya as his deputy

President Cyril Ramaphosa has appointed Justice Raymond Zondo as the new Chief Justice. Picture: Oupa Mokoena/African News Agency (ANA) Archives

President Cyril Ramaphosa has appointed Justice Raymond Zondo as the new Chief Justice. Picture: Oupa Mokoena/African News Agency (ANA) Archives

Published Mar 12, 2022


Johannesburg - The legal fraternity and political parties have lauded President Cyril Ramaphosa’s decision to appoint Justice Raymond Zondo as the new Chief Justice and for nominating Judge President of the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) Mandisa Maya to be his deputy.

Ramaphosa’s appointment followed a decision taken by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) last month, after rigorous interviews of Justices Zondo, Maya, Dunstan Mlambo and Mbuyiselo Madlanga, to recommend Justice Maya for the post of Chief Justice.

The JSC’s decision irked some legal experts and political commentators while other interested groups threatened to challenge the JSC in court.

They argued that the JSC made their nomination despite knowing that the duty to appoint a suitable candidate was Ramaphosa’s prerogative.

JSC spokesperson Advocate Dali Mpofu, SC, said the judicial body extended its congratulations and best wishes to Deputy Chief Justice Zondo.

“The JSC further notes and welcomes the president’s intention to nominate (Justice Maya) for the position of Deputy Chief Justice when it becomes vacant. The JSC also wishes to extend its congratulations and best wishes to (Justice Maya) regarding this process,” Mpofu said.

The ANC and SACP also expressed similar sentiment about the approach Ramaphosa took prior to announcing the appointment and the nomination of Justice Maya.

ANC spokesperson Pule Mabe said his party commended the president for the open, inclusive and transparent process that he followed in making nominations for the position of Chief Justice to the JSC and allowing the public to nominate and comment on nominees, saying it has contributed to the deepening of constitutional democracy.

“We believe that the position of Chief Justice plays a crucial role in our constitutional democracy. We are confident that under the leadership of Justice Zondo, the judiciary will continue to assert its independence and give a progressive interpretation of the provisions of the Constitution championing the rights of all South Africans and ensuring equal access to justice.

“We reiterate our conviction that the judiciary and institutions charged with promoting and protecting democracy should be strengthened and continually transformed more effectively to discharge their constitutional duties.

“They should be respected and supported as a necessary component of a humane society based on the rule of law. The transformation of the judiciary must be intensified, in terms of the content of judicial education in tertiary and specialised institutions and demographic composition of the judicial officer corps,” Mabe said.

SACP spokesperson Dr Alex Mashilo said his party welcomed the president's intention to nominate Justice Maya to serve as the new Deputy Chief Justice.

Justice Maya was bringing with her experience and capacity from the SCA, first and foremost. “In addition, the decision will contribute to South Africa's national imperative of transformation in gender relations, especially towards building equity in key centres of power and decision-making,” Mashilo said.

Brett Herron, Good Party secretary-general, said Justice Zondo has had the unenviable task of chairing the commission investigating state capture. “The reports of the commission collectively contain far-reaching findings of culpability and recommendations on reforming state systems to prevent corruption in future.

“Judge Zondo takes the reins of the Constitutional Court at a difficult time for the judiciary, which has come under attack from certain quarters in an environment of unprecedented factionalism in the ruling party.

“We encourage him to continue holding organs of state to account and deepening the integrity of our judiciary which is the last bulwark against state malfeasance,” Herron said.

Similar views were expressed by IFP national spokesperson Mkhuleko Hlengwa, who hailed Justice Zondo for his sterling work in the state capture commission.

“Justice Zondo stepped up and accepted this challenging, politically-charged assignment, and presided over the proceedings without fear, or favour. He conducted himself in a manner that was above reproach, and a credit to the judiciary.

“However, this commission is not the sum of Justice Zondo’s knowledge and experience. He has, over a long and distinguished career, shown himself to be a person of integrity, with the necessary skills and expertise to be fit for purpose as Chief Justice,” Hlengwa said.

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Political Bureau