Learn more about the four judges in line for the Chief Justice job

President Cyril Ramaphosa this week announced four candidates he has shortlisted to replace former chief justice Mogoeng Mogoeng.

President Cyril Ramaphosa this week announced four candidates he has shortlisted to replace former chief justice Mogoeng Mogoeng.

They are Deputy Chief Justice, now Acting Chief Justice, Raymond Zondo; Constitutional Court Justice Mbuyiseli Madlanga; Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) Judge President Mandisa Maya; and Judge President of the Gauteng Division Dunstan Mlambo.

It is a strong field and, while the final decision is yet to be made, Maya appears in many ways the likely frontrunner.

Zondo’s role as chair of the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture has seen his public notoriety rise in recent years.

This could work against him in the race, with his appointment bringing with it the potential to more deeply entrench the existing divisions in the governing party, whose members are highly likely to be implicated by the commission’s findings in the end.

Madlanga, meanwhile, has extensive experience sitting on the Constitutional Court. He is also highly respected and well-liked.

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But against the backdrop of their performances in positions they each currently occupy, Mlambo and Maya stand out.

Having been Judge President of the Labour Court and of the Gauteng Division of the High Court, Mlambo is a tried and tested leader.

Over the past few years, though, Maya has proved herself a more than capable captain of the ship at the appellate court, as Judges Matter, a coalition that monitors the judiciary, points out, navigating the internal tensions on the bench of the country’s second-highest court and spearheading its move online in the wake of the Covid pandemic.

In light of mounting pressure to appoint a woman to the position, Maya seems a likely choice.

Maya is jurist with ‘excellent grasp of law’

The first female jurist to serve as President of the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA), Mandisa Muriel Lindelwa Maya was born on 20 March, 1964 in Tsolo, Eastern Cape but grew up in King William’s Town.

Before she was appointed as SCA president in May 2017, Maya served as a judge in the Mthatha High Court and as Deputy President of the SCA. Maya is married to Dabulamanzi Mlokoti and they have three children.

According to Judges Matter – a group that monitors the judiciary – Maya has been commended as a diligent and
hardworking jurist with an excellent grasp of the law and the progressive values of the constitution by the advocates who have appeared before her.

“She has been described as a judge who is sensitive to the contradictions in a society wracked by gender-based violence and socioeconomic inequalities, and is most independent-minded, too,” the group notes.

Her “independent-mindedness”, said Judges Matter, was perhaps best demonstrated in 2011, when Maya penned a dissenting SCA judgment in the matter Minister of Safety and Security v F.

The majority found the minister was not vicariously liable for the actions of a police officer who had been convicted
of rape. But Maya disagreed – as did the Constitutional Court when it later overturned the SCA’s majority decision.

Justice Mbuyiseli Madlanga, appointed judge for first time at just 34

Mbuyiseli Russel Madlanga was born and raised in the rural village of Njijini, 16km outside the small town of Mount Frere in the Eastern Cape.

He matriculated at Mariazell High School in Matatiele and obtained a BJuris degree from the University of Transkei.

His Constitutional Court profile notes at the age of 34, he was appointed as a judge of the Mthatha High Court, becoming South Africa’s youngest judge at the time.

Within only three years, he was appointed on an acting basis to the bench of the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA).

Madlanga was then appointed – on a permanent basis – to the bench of the Competition Appeal Court and continued acting on the SCA bench as the Competition Appeal Court was yet to commence functioning.

The acting appointment at the SCA was cut short after a year as he was appointed to act as the Judge President of the Mthatha High Court.

While in that position, he was appointed acting Justice of the Constitutional Court. He was also the chief evidence leader at the Marikana Commission of Inquiry.

In 2018, Madlanga set aside the dismissal of former national director of public prosecutions Mxolisi Nxasana.

He is married to Nosisi (nee Nkenkana) and has six children.

DCJ Raymond Zondo, the man who jailed Zuma

Raymond Zondo at the state capture commission
Deputy, now acting, Chief Justice Raymond Zondo. Picture: Neil McCartney

Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo – who is the acting chief justice – was born in Ixopo, KwaZulu-Natal, on 4 May, 1960.

According to his Constitutional Court profile, Zondo served part of his articles under the late Victoria Mxenge in Durban.

After Mxenge’s assassination by apartheid agents, Zondo ceded his articles of clerkship to Mthembu & Partners and later to Chennels Alberton Attorneys.

In 1991 and 1992, Zondo served on two committees of the Commission of Inquiry Regarding the Prevention of Public Violence and Intimidation (also known as the Goldstone Commission) which investigated violence in South Africa during the early 1990s.

He has become a household name as chair of the Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of State Capture, Corruption and Fraud in the Public Sector including Organs of State – colloquially known as the Zondo commission.

Zondo will go down in history as the man who put former president Jacob Zuma behind bars for contempt of court after Zuma refused to appear before the commission.

He also penned the Constitutional Court’s 2018 ruling in Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development and Others v Prince, decriminalising the use of dagga.

He is married to Sithembile Zondo and they have four children.

Justice Dunstan Mlambo the man who ordered state capture inquiry

Judge President Dunstan Mlambo in the High Court in Pretoria set aside the findings of 2016’s Seriti commission looking into the controversial 1999 arms deal after an application from two civil society groups, Corruption Watch (CW) and the Right2know Campaign (R2K), to have the findings of the commission declared null and void, 21 August 2019. Picture: Jacques Nelles

Dunstan Mlambo was born in Bushbuckridge, Mpumalanga, in 1960 and grew up in Barberton in the province.

In 2007, Mlambo participated in an Legal Resources Centre (LRC) oral history project.

He spoke of having become “attached” to books at a young age and said he decided to become a lawyer when he read about the French Revolution in high school. After obtaining a law degree from the University of the North (now Limpopo), he worked as a legal advisor for what was then the KaNgwane homeland government.

He joined the LRC as a fellow in 1987 and did his articles at what was then Bowman Gilfillan in 1988 and 1989, rising to associate partner within five years.

Mlambo has served on the benches of the Labour Court, the High Court in Johannesburg and the Supreme Court
of Appeal (SCA) and as Judge President of the Labour Court.

He is currently the Judge President of the Gauteng Diivision. He also chaired Legal Aid SA for several years.

Mlambo is married to Cynthia Raashela and has four children.

In 2017, Mlambo penned the ruling in the President of the Republic of SA v Office of the Public Protector and Others
in the High Court in Pretoria in which it declared that the public protector recommendations in Thuli Madonsela’s State of Capture report were binding and ordered then president Jacob Zuma to convene a commission of inquiry.

That same year, he also penned the Johannesburg High Court’s ruling in Corruption Watch and Another President of the Republic of SA and Others, in which it set aside ex National Prosecuting Authority boss Shaun Abrahams’ appointment.

  • Additional report by Citizen Reporter

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