The appointment of Raymond Zondo as chief justice was a bright moment in a dire week

Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo. Picture: Timothy Bernard/African News Agency (ANA)

Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo. Picture: Timothy Bernard/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Mar 12, 2022



Johannesburg - President Cyril Ramaphosa’s appointment this week of Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo as South Africa’s seventh Chief Justice, after the retirement of Mogoeng Mogoeng, is to be welcomed.

Zondo is a fine jurist and administrator, with a quarter of century’s service on the bench at various levels. His crowning achievement has been his Solomonic handling of the eponymous commission into State Capture, the ramifications of which will reverberate for at least the next generation of South Africans.

His candidacy for the apex position in the justice system, especially now in the winter of his career, should never have been in doubt, but this is South Africa. We are a country of incredible inequality and because of that a fierce contest for access to resources is matched with an equal ferocity to ever avoid accountability for malfeasance. Some of this played out during the recent Judicial Service Commission hearings into the suitability of the four candidates shortlisted by Ramaphosa for possible appointment to the post.

It was a nadir in the JSC’s history, a kangaroo court designed to put forward one against the other three – even if the tactics included ad hominem and scurrilous attacks on their reputations. To add insult to injury, the JSC then overstepped its mandate by ranking the candidates, which it was not supposed to do, only to judge their suitability. Zondo, for obvious reasons, was ranked lowest even though he is currently the second most senior judge in the country, and has been acting chief justice since October.

This week Ramaphosa acted in the interests of the country, not his own party, and certainly not the interests of a minority opposition party. He rewarded skill and service – which is what the constitution actually requires – both in appointing a chief justice and quickly filling the deputy’s vacancy that then arose.

It was a bright moment in an otherwise dire week.

The Saturday Star