At its graduation ceremony on 29 March 2023, Rhodes University will confer a
degree of Doctor of Laws (LLD) (honoris causa) on the Chairperson of the Judicial
Commission of Inquiry into allegations of state capture and Chief Justice of South
Africa, Judge Raymond Mnyamezeli Zondo.
Judge Zondo was born on 4 May 1960 in Ixopo, KwaZulu-Natal, where he completed
his basic education. He attended St Mary’s Seminary in Ixopo for his secondary and
high school education. He matriculated at the age of 20.
Judge Zondo studied BJuris at the University of Zululand, where he studied
alongside retired Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng. He currently serves as the
He further obtained his LLB from the University of Natal. Justice Zondo has three
LLM degrees from the University of South Africa. These are LLM (cum laude) in
Labour Law, LLM in Commercial Law and LLM with specialisation in Patent Law.
Chief Justice Zondo worked at Legal Resources after obtaining his BJuris to secure
funding for his LLB. After completing his LLB, Justice Zondo served part of his
articles of clerkship at Mxenge, Ngxiweni, and Shezi Attorneys in Durban. He then
ceded his articles of clerkship to Mthembu and Partners and later finished his articles
at Chennels Alberton Attorneys. After his admission as an attorney in 1989, he
became a partner at Mathe and Zondo Incorporated. He practised as an attorney for
In 1991 and 1992, he served in 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
In 1994, Justice Zondo was appointed as a member of the Ministerial Task Team
responsible for producing a draft Labour Relations Bill for post-apartheid South
Africa. With certain amendments, the Bill was passed into the Labour Relations Act
In 1996, Justice Zondo was appointed as the first Chairman of the Governing Body
of the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) from which he
resigned upon his appointment as a Judge.
In November 1997, he was appointed as Judge of the Labour Court, and in April/May
1999, he was appointed as a Judge of the then Transvaal Provincial Division of the
High Court (now the Gauteng Division of the High Court). In May 2000, Justice
Zondo was appointed Judge President of the Labour Court and the Labour Appeal
Court for a 10-year tenure. During this time, he served in various ad hoc committees
established by the heads of courts. These included a committee chaired by the late
Justice Pius Langa, which drew up a document to be used by the Judiciary in dealing
with complaints about racism and sexism within the Judiciary. Justice Zondo also
chaired a committee of the heads of court which looked into the use of official
languages in courts.
In March 2011, he was honoured by the KwaZulu-Natal Legal Forum, which consists
of many legal bodies, with an award for his contribution to human rights in South
Africa. With effect from 1 September 2012 he was appointed as Judge of the
Constitutional Court. On 1 June 2017, Justice Zondo was appointed Deputy Chief
Justice of the Republic of South Africa.
In January 2018, former President Jacob Zuma appointed him as the Chairperson of
the Commission of Inquiry into allegations of State Capture, Corruption and Fraud in
the Public Sector, including Organs of State. That Commission investigated various
allegations of state capture, corruption, and fraud in the public sector from 2018 until
August 2021. It submitted its Report to President Cyril Ramaphosa in six Parts from
31 December 2021 to 22 June 2022. President Ramaphosa accepted a number of
the recommendations made by the Commission.
While he was Deputy Chief Justice, Justice Zondo was also the Chairperson of the
Executive Committee of the South African Judicial Education Institute (SAJEI). As
Chief Justice, he also serves as the Chairperson of the SAJEI Council.
On 10 March 2022, President Ramaphosa announced Justice Zondo’s appointment
as the 6 th Chief Justice of the Republic of South Africa since the advent of
democracy. In his long judicial career, Chief Justice Zondo has significantly
contributed to jurisprudence in this country. He has delivered many judgments that
have positively impacted the lives of many South Africans. In addition, he has
contributed to the strengthening of the judiciary in remarkable ways. He continues to
do so in his current position as the Chief Justice of the Republic of South Africa.
On 16 July 2022, the General Council of the Bar of South Africa – an organisation of
advocates of South Africa – awarded Justice Zondo the Sydney and Felicia
Kentridge Award “for service to Law in Southern Africa”. In November 2022, the
Congress of Business and Economics awarded Justice Zondo the “Ahmed Kathrada
Excellence in Leadership Award 2022”. In December 2022, the South African
Chapter of the International Association of Women Judges gave Justice Zondo an
award in recognition of his continued and unwavering support for the SAC-IAWJ.
Justice Zondo has also published articles and written chapters in three books.
The Senate and Council of Rhodes University have voted to confer the degree
Doctor of Laws (LLD) (honoris causa) in recognition of Chief Justice Zondo’s
distinguished judicial career and for his outstanding service to the public and society.
The honour will be conferred at the Rhodes University graduation ceremony on
Wednesday, 29 March 2023.
“To have Rhodes University award me the degree of LLD (honoris causa) in
recognition of what it believes is ‘my distinguished career’ and ‘outstanding service to
the public and society’ is a great privilege. Rhodes University is a university of great
standing, and I regard it as an honour that it has decided to confer such a degree on
me,” said Judge Zondo.
Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sizwe Mabizela described Judge Zondo as an exemplary
and selfless leader. “His role as the Chairperson of the Judicial Commission of
Inquiry into Allegations of State Capture will always stand as a monument to
exemplary leadership, courage, dedication and selfless service to our nation. Our
nation owes him an inestimable debt of gratitude and appreciation for dedicating his
life to public service and the betterment of humanity,” said Professor Mabizela.