The mixed reaction to the appointment of Judge Raymond Zondo as the country’s next chief justice and the concomitant nomination of Supreme Court of Appeals president Judge Mandisa Maya as deputy chief justice is not surprising.
Let us make it clear from the outset that we have no underlying objection to Justice Zondo’s appointment. Equally so, we would have been pleased and not offended had Justice Maya been chosen ahead of Zondo. We again would not have quibbled had another front runner, Gauteng Judge President Dunstan Mlambo, been propelled to this highest judicial office in the land.
However, we are astounded by the conduct of those who have taken it upon themselves to disparage Zondo’s appointment. They are missing the point. As South Africans, we were spoilt for choice in the candidature of these three judges given their illustrious judicial competence, their comprehensive vision for the judiciary as well as their deep and shared recognition of the mammoth responsibility associated with the office of the chief justice.
Despite the glaring inconsistencies by some commissioners during the Judicial Service Commission’s (JSC’s) process of interviews, and despite the inept performance of the chair, who failed to rein in politicians who almost muddied the proceedings with their political predispositions, South Africans must be happy that President Cyril Ramaphosa was able to execute a delicate balancing act in
applying his mind.
We recognise the fact that Justice Zondo has already been acting in that position since the retirement of Mogoeng Mogoeng, and has throughout his acting stint undoubtedly acquitted himself with impeccable integrity and knowledge of the law.
We find it extremely distasteful that the attacks on Zondo’s appointment appear to be borne out of factional interests, which has nothing to do with his capabilities as a jurist. How strange that among those who attack him include those who unjustifiably seek to make him a scapegoat for former president Jacob Zuma’s political waywardness.
South Africa must kiss this democracy goodbye the day politics is going to take precedence over the rule of law. Zondo’s condemnation is so unjustified that it borders on dangerous propaganda and disinformation that seeks to elevate malicious falsehoods over truth.
Zondo’s methodical leadership of the State Capture Commission in the face of hostility from certain implicated parties is another example of a man who manages to keep his composure under trying and difficult circumstances.
The discourse around the interviews process and Zondo’s subsequent appointment have also unfortunately created the wrong perception that Justice Maya may be beholden to certain factional interests when she, in fact, has nothing to do with that.
Despite all the fumbling by the JSC, we, however, hope Justice Maya is going to acquit herself in her new role as deputy chief justice with the honour and integrity she has always demonstrated throughout her career as a respected jurist.
Follow @SundayWorldZA on Twitter@sundayworldza on Instagram, or like our Facebook Page, Sunday World, by clicking here for the latest breaking news in South Africa. To Subscribe to Sunday World, click here.