South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has appointed experienced jurist Raymond Zondo as the country’s new chief justice effective April 1.
The announcement was made in a statement released on Thursday, after a public selection process.
Zondo, who has served as deputy chief justice at the Constitutional Court since 2017, became the public face of Ramaphosa’s anti-corruption drive while heading a recent national inquiry into allegations of widespread corruption under the presidency of Jacob Zuma, the previous head of state.
Last year the Constitutional Court found him guilty of contempt for his refusal to appear at the commission and sentenced him to jail. Before going to prison, Zuma compared South African judges to apartheid rulers.
“The fact that I was lambasted with a punitive jail sentence without trial should engender shock in all those who believe in freedom and the rule of law,” Zuma said. “South Africa is fast sliding back to apartheid rule.” Since then Zondo found Zuma advanced the interests of the Indian-born Gupta family and close allies at the expense of the people of South Africa.
The first three parts of Zondo’s report have already been published, and it has implicated several other senior politicians in wrongdoing. Among them was the chairperson of the ruling ANC party and the mineral resources and energy minister, Gwede Mantashe, who said he would take the State Capture Commission report to judicial review. The country’s prosecuting authority will likely criminally charge those implicated once the final part of the inquiry’s report is published. Zondo’s job interview went wrong Ramaphosa had to consult the JSC before appointing the Chief Justice. The JSC’s process to evaluate candidates was, however, tainted with political infighting. Zondo’s interview at the commission descended into a heated public argument between Justice Minister Ronald Lamola and the leader of one of the opposition parties, the EFF’s Julius Malema. Their argument did not directly relate to Zondo or his JSC interviews, but served to highlight how fraught a political issue they had become, as the judge watched on while his interviewers loudly accused each other of dishonesty or a lack of respect.
“The Chief Justice stands as the champion of the rights of all South Africans and bears responsibility for ensuring equal access to justice. I have every confidence that Justice Zondo will acquit himself with distinction in this position,” Ramaphosa said in a statement.