From having to get a loan to feed his family while he was studying law to being appointed the second most powerful judge in the country, deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo is now at the helm of arguably the biggest probe in South Africa.
In a surprise announcement on Tuesday evening, President Jacob Zuma announced the appointment of a judicial commission of inquiry into state capture. Chief justice Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng had chosen his deputy to head up the inquiry.
In its submissions to the Judicial Service Commission for appointments to the Constitutional Court in 2012, the General Council of the Bar (GCB) found that Zondo "enjoys a reputation for integrity and ethical behaviour", something that will be imperative in getting to the bottom of allegations surrounding state capture.
Here is everything you need to know about Raymond Zondo:
- Zondo was born in Ixopo, KwaZulu-Natal in 1960. He holds a BJuris degree from the University of Zululand and two LLMs from the University of KwaZulu-Natal and Unisa.
- In his interview for the deputy chief justice post, Zondo described his impoverished upbringing, recalling how he approached a local businessman for a monthly loan to purchase groceries for his family while he was studying towards his degree. Read the full interview here.
- Zondo has a 20-year tenure in the courts, first being 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. In 2011, Zondo served in an acting role as a judge in the Constitutional Court for one year until his position was made permanent. In 2017, Zuma chose Zondo to replace the retired Dikgang Moseneke as deputy chief justice.
- There is little scandal surrounding him. In 2007, Moneyweb reported that questions had been raised in Parliament about the appropriateness of transport and living allowances Zondo received in his capacity as Judge President of the Labour Court. It was alleged he was paid R1,275,493 in transport and living allowances over a five-year period on top of his salary.
- He has also been criticised for being slow to deliver judgment. In the GCB's submissions, the report stated that there have been instances where judgments written by Zondo were handed down more than 12 months after appeals were argued.
- However, the same report found that Zondo had, through his repeated references to Constitutional Court judgments and constitutional principles, "displayed a firm commitment to advancing the cause of a constitutional state founded on constitutional principles".