Chief Justice Raymond Mnyamezeli Mlungisi Zondo (popularly known as Judge Raymond Zondo) was born in the rural town of Ixopo, Natal (now KwaZulu-Natal) in 1960. He holds a B Juris degree from the University of Zululand and three LLM's from the universities of: 'KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) and the University of South Africa (Unisa)'. As one of nine children, he put himself first through high school and then university with bursaries he earned by working hard and getting good grades, he told the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) during his interview for the deputy chief justice position.

When he finished matric, he secured a bursary to study law at the University of Zululand but was concerned about who would take care of his mother and siblings – his father was a labourer who worked in Johannesburg, Transvaal (now Gauteng) and didn't really support the family. So, he secured a loan in the form of monthly vouchers from a local store owner for his mother before he went off to law school.

After his BJuris degree, he worked at the Legal Resources Centre (LRC) to secure funding to further his studies. He applied and received a bursary from the Sunday Tribune.

After his LLB degree he started doing his articles with the firm of the famous anti-apartheid activist Victoria Mxenge. When she was murdered in 1985, he moved to Mthembu & Co and after that to another firm, Chennels Albertyn.

He was admitted as an attorney in 1989. In Durban. Judge Zondo practised as a partner at Mathe & Zondo, focussing on labour law, while working on a part-time basis as a mediator and arbitrator. Between 1991 and 1992 Zondo served on the Goldstone Commission which investigated the political violence and intimidation in the 1990s in South Africa.

Zondo was a member of the Ministerial Task Team that drafted a Labour Relations Bill for the post-apartheid era. He was then appointed as the first chairperson of the Governing Body of the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) in 1996 before becoming a judge.

In 1997, Zondo accepted an acting appointment as a Judge of the Labour Court and later was appointed to the North Gauteng Division of the High Court (formerly Transvaal Provincial Division of the High Court). From 2000, Zondo served as Judge President of the Labour Court and the Labour Appeal Court for a term of office of ten years before returning to the bench of the North Gauteng Division of the High Court in 2010. During his time as Judge President, Zondo served on several committees of the Heads of Courts, including the five-member panel led by Chief Justice Pius Langa, to investigate discrimination, race, and gender in the judiciary. Zondo also chaired the Language Committee of Heads of Court. 

Zondo later completed three LLM degrees, one in Trademark Law, another in Competition Law and the third in Patent Law.

Judge Raymond Zondo replaced Justice Dikgang Moseneke as deputy chief justice of the Constitutional Court when the latter retired in 2017. He has been a judge in the Constitutional Court since 2012, before which he was in an acting position for one year.

Chief Justice Mogoeng appointed him to chair the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture to investigate allegations of state capture, corruption, and fraud in the Public Sector, including organs of state. The Commission (commonly referred to as the Zondo Commission) was launched in 2018 and is an ongoing inquiry after former public protector Thuli Madonsela recommended the chief justice (and not the President) appoint the chair of the commission since President Jacob Zuma would be compromised owing to allegations of corruption against him.

Aside from questions raised in Parliament about inflated living allowances Zondo received in his capacity as Judge President of the Labour Court, which was later cleared up, his record as an officer of the court is squeaky clean.

The General Council of the Bar (GCB) found in its submission to the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) in support of Zondo's appointment to the ConCourt that he "enjoys a reputation for integrity and ethical behaviour" and "displayed a firm commitment to advancing the cause of a constitutional state founded on constitutional principles".

On 4 January 2022, President Cyril Ramaphosa received the first part of the report of the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of State Capture from the Commission’s Chairperson, Acting Chief Justice Raymond Zondo. The Commission’s final report will be submitted to the President in three parts. On the 10 March, in accordance with Section 174(3) of the Constitution, Ramaphosa decided to appoint the Acting Chief, as the next Chief Justice of the Republic of South Africa, from 1 April 2022.


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