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WATCH: New Chief Justice Zondo assures of fearless, independent judiciary, able to withstand political pressure

Incoming Chief Justice Raymond Zondo answers questions from the media during a session at his office in Midrand, Johannesburg. Picture: Timothy Bernard African News Agency (ANA)

Incoming Chief Justice Raymond Zondo answers questions from the media during a session at his office in Midrand, Johannesburg. Picture: Timothy Bernard African News Agency (ANA)

Published Mar 25, 2022

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Johannesburg - Incoming Chief Justice Raymond Zondo on Thursday assured South Africans that as head of the judiciary he will be fearlessly independent and will withstand any political pressure during his two year tenure.

Justice Zondo, who officially becomes the country’s top judicial officer from April 1 following his appointment by President Cyril Ramaphosa earlier this month, addressed the media at his offices in Midrand, Johannesburg.

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”I believe that I am strongly independent and that will remain. I believe that I can handle any political pressure,” he promised.

According to Justice Zondo, he would never make a finding against somebody because of anything other than when the law does not support that conclusion.

”I would never make a finding against somebody other than because the evidence justifies it and the law justifies it,” he explained.

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Video: Timothy Bernard/African News Agency (ANA)

Justice Zondo continued: ”I believe that the judiciary must be fearlessly independent and I believe that is for every judge and magistrate. But I believe that when you are in this (position) of leadership of the judiciary there is even a greater responsibility.“

In response to questions about claims by EFF leader Julius Malema that the judiciary was captured and that the North Gauteng High Court never rules against Ramaphosa, Justice Zondo asked anybody who has evidence that any judge or the judiciary is captured to come forward with such evidence.

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“Allegations that the judiciary is captured are very serious allegations. They should not be made lightly by anybody because it is not in the interest of anybody who loves this country to portray our judiciary as captured,” he said.

Justice Zondo also responded to KwaZulu-Natal premier Sihle Zikalala’s call on Monday for the country’s constitutional democracy as it placed other arms of the state above others.

Video: Timothy Bernard/African News Agency (ANA)

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”Our Constitution envisages the judiciary performing certain functions [and] it performs those functions in accordance with the Constitution and I do not think that it performs functions that it should not perform in a constitutional democracy such as ours.

“I think that it performs the functions that it should and obviously premier Zikalala may be disgruntled about certain decisions but those decisions are taken according to the Constitution,” Justice Zondo explained.

In addition, he addressed threats by some prominent political figures to take the report of the commission of inquiry into state capture and whether such moves would divide his attention.

”It won’t at all. When you have chaired a commission and you have issued your report and somebody takes it on review, you decide as the chairperson of the commission whether you are going to oppose it or not oppose it or file any papers without opposing to explain certain decisions or aspects of your report. But it won’t interfere at all as far as I am concerned,” he said.

Justice Zondo said the parts of the report that have already been released were quite detailed and the reason was to ensure that the findings that the commission makes are based on the consideration and analysis of the evidence.

“It does not mean that the report will be 100% correct in every respect, nothing is perfect but what we have sought is to do all we can to try and make sure that all findings that we make, people can see how we arrived at them and they are based on the analysis of evidence,” he added.

Justice Zondo said he learnt of his appointment from Ramaphosa himself who asked that they meet in the early afternoon of the day he was informed.

However, he asked his aides to inform Ramaphosa that he was unsure if the matter the Constitutional Court was hearing would be concluded by the time the president had set.

”I was able to see him (after the hearing), so he is the one who told me,” he added.

Justice Zondo said he felt the weight of the responsibility that comes with being Chief Justice.

”But I was happy that I was appointed. I think my mind quickly moved to what might lie ahead and the responsibilities that come with this position.

“I felt honoured because I do think it’s an honour to be appointed as a judge in the first place but to be appointed as the Chief Justice of the country is a special honour. It gives one an opportunity to serve the people in a very special way. So I felt quite honoured and privileged by the appointment,” he explained.

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Political Bureau

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