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By Narissa Subramoney

Deputy digital news editor

Zondo says he won’t buckle under political pressure

Chief Justice-elect Raymond Zondo says his work on the state capture commission will not be affected by his new role.

Chief Justice-elect Raymond Zondo says he feels honoured and privileged to serve as the country’s top judge.

Zondo said it was President Cyril Ramaphosa who broke the news of his new role to him. Zondo was in a hearing when staff informed him that the president had requested to meet. 

But due to that hearing, Zondo was delayed. He did, however, manage to make the meeting an hour later, where Ramaphosa broke the news to him.

“My first reaction, I felt the heaviness of the responsibility that comes with this appointment,” said Zondo during a press briefing on Thursday afternoon.

“But, I was happy to be appointed. My mind quickly moved with what lies ahead,” he added.

“I felt honoured to be a judge and being chief justice is a special honour, to serve the people in a special way.”

Zondo said he is also looking forward to working with Judge Mandisa Maya, who is expected to be appointed as deputy chief justice. Maya was recommended by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) to be the next Chief Justice.

“Judge Maya will play an important role if and when she is appointed,” said Zondo.

State capture vs Chief Justice duties

When asked if he would be able to balance the upcoming reviews of the state capture commission with his duties as Chief Justice, Zondo said he’d been acting in the Chief Justice position while doing the state captures commissions work.

Zondo also confirmed that he is due to complete the state capture report by the end of April, which will also mark his first month since being appointed.

The Chief Justice-elect is confident about being able to work well with members of the judiciary, including his biggest critics.

Alleged judiciary capture

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The interview process with Zondo became heated after Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema questioned the judge about meetings he had with former president Jacob Zuma.

During the JSC interview, Malema accused Zondo of “political interference” when the judge met Zuma in 2008.

Zondo had asked to meet Zuma to discuss Malema’s “kill for Zuma” comments when the EFF president was the leader of the ANC Youth League (ANCYL).

Zondo said he had met Zuma as a private citizen to avoid “bloodshed” over Malema’s comments.  

When questioned about whether he would be able to work with Malema, Zondo responded that he found the red beret’s leader to be courteous and respectful in his grilling during the interview process.

“The EFF also issued a statement welcoming my appointment,” said Zondo.

But Malema was singing a different – albeit unsubstantiated – tune on Human Rights Day, accusing the country’s judges of bias and claiming that the judiciary was ‘captured’ in favour of Ramaphosa’s faction within the ANC.

“Those are very serious allegations, they should not be made lightly by anybody,” said Zondo.

“It is not in the interest of anybody who loves this country to claim the judiciary is captured,” he added.

He called on those with evidence of captured judges to come forward.

While not wanting to reference the state capture commission directly, Zondo did address past allegations made about certain judges who had allegedly received money to decide cases in a certain way. 

“The former [Chief Justice] publicly addressed it, asking people with evidence to come forward.

“Up until now, I am not aware of anyone who has come forward with evidence,” said Zondo.

Zondo said his ultimate goal as Chief Justice would be to leave behind an independent judiciary that would safeguard the country’s democracy.

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