Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, who has served as a Constitutional Court Judge for 11 years, today celebrates this significant milestone in his judicial career, with only one year remaining in the highest court of the land before his anticipated retirement.
The 63-year-old jurist assumed the role of Chief Justice on April 1, 2022, succeeding former Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng. His appointment came following a selection process by the Judicial Service Commission in February 2022.
Chief Justice Zondo’s journey in the Constitutional Court began in September 2012 when he was appointed as a judge by former President Jacob Zuma, with his term officially commencing on September 1st of the same year. His non-renewable 12-year term as an apex court judge is scheduled to conclude on August 31, 2024.
Under the South African Constitution, Constitutional Court judges are limited to a non-renewable term of 12 years or until the age of 70, depending on which milestone they reach first.
Mbekezeli Benjamin, a representative from Judges Matter, commented on some of Chief Justice Zondo’s most noteworthy judgments. “From his tenure as a constitutional court justice starting in September 2012, he has authored several significant judgments, particularly in labour law. This includes the Solidarity Case, which interpreted the Employment Equity Act to mandate the consideration of regional demographics, and the Judgment of Home Affairs vs Tsebe, which involved the interpretation of the constitution regarding individuals facing deportation to countries with the death penalty,” noted Benjamin.
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Benjamin also highlighted Chief Justice Zondo’s role in reforming the Judicial Service Commission, stating, “He served as the Chairperson of the Judicial Conduct Committee, addressing cases of judicial misconduct. During his tenure, he introduced new reforms to expedite the judicial misconduct process, allowing cases to be handled by the heads of court for swifter resolution. As Chief Justice, he played a crucial role in revamping the Judicial Service Commission, introducing new criteria for judge appointments.”
Zondo played a pivotal role in overseeing the State Capture Commission of Inquiry, investigating widespread corruption within State Owned Entities. The inquiry, spanning from 2018 to 2022, incurred a cost to the state exceeding R 1 billion. In a recent interview with SABC News, Zondo defended the inquiry’s expenditure, asserting, “The cost was justified in terms of the knowledge and information that South Africans were able to gain from the processes of the commission, the evidence that we were able to have that showed us who was involved in what.”
Benjamin speculated on Zondo’s potential involvement in selecting his successor, saying, “If President Ramaphosa nominates a Chief Justice early enough, Zondo may play a role in the process of searching for the next Chief Justice. The Chief Justice serves as the Chairperson of the Judicial Service Commission, responsible for appointing judges and recommending the next Chief Justice.
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In addition to his tenure in the Constitutional Court, Zondo has held positions in various lower courts since 1997, including his initial appointment as Acting Judge of the Labour Court in November 1997.
As South Africa reflected on Chief Justice Zondo’s extensive interview for the Chief Justice position in February last year, he concluded the session with a light-hearted remark. “I just want to thank you for this opportunity. Thank you very much. I may say on a lighter note that whatever happens, this is the last time I appeared before this commission as a candidate…laughing…I will never appear again…laughing…so commissioner Malema, you will never get a chance to ask me questions again…laughing…But on a serious note, I really want to say thank you, chairperson, thank you very much.”
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