Humble beginnings do not define who you are – Mandisa Maya

African children from poor backgrounds should work hard, reach out for opportunities, and know that their humble beginnings do not define who they are.

This is according to Deputy Chief Justice Mandisa Maya, who was speaking at the Judicial Service Commission interview for the position of chief justice.

Maya is the only nominee for the position after receiving the nod from President Cyril Ramaphosa.


Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, who will retire as a judge in September, is the interview’s moderator at the Capital on the Park Hotel in Sandton, Johannesburg.

Since Maya is from the small Eastern Cape town of Tsolo, ANC MP and commissioner Jomo Nyambi questioned her during the proceedings about the message of hope she would give an African child.

Reach out to the sky

“Your question has touched a nerve. Firstly, this current generation has social media platforms. They know what is going on around them. They know of my existence, Maya responded.

“The number of messages I have received from parents and guardians indicates that they had no idea that a person from the dusty area of Tsolo could ascend to such heights.

“They said that they were inspired by me. I speak to young people, especially in townships and rural areas. The children there are growing up in dire situations with no hope.

“All they need to do is reach out to the sky and know that there are opportunities out there. Your background does not define you.


“Reach out for opportunities, work hard, and the chances are you will make it.”

Journey to the top of judiciary

During her interview, the deputy chief justice had to answer questions from Zondo, Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) president Betty Molemela, MPs, senior counsels, and academics, among others. 

Before being appointed deputy chief justice in September 2022, Maya was president of the SCA from 2017 to 2022.

Before that, she was deputy president of the SCA from 2015 to 2017. The 60-year-old was appointed as a judge of the SCA in June 2006.

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