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Chief Justice Raymond Zondo’s appointment was disappointing, says Mandisa Maya

Supreme Court of Appeal President Justice Mandisa Maya. Picture: Timothy Bernard/African News Agency (ANA)

Supreme Court of Appeal President Justice Mandisa Maya. Picture: Timothy Bernard/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Jun 21, 2022

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Tshwarelo Hunter Mogakane

Pretoria - Supreme Court of Appeal President Mandisa Maya has opened up for the first time about how she felt when President Cyril Ramaphosa snubbed her for the position of chief justice, saying she was disappointed.

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While she respected the president’s prerogative to appoint a chief justice of his own choice, Justice Raymond Zondo’s appointment undermined the “lofty Constitution and fancy laws” enacted by Parliament.

The sole Deputy Chief Justice nominee, who appeared before the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) virtually because she was not feeling well, Justice Maya was responding to a question from IFP chief whip Narend Singh who asked her how she felt when Ramaphosa overlooked the JSC’s recommendation for her appointment as Mogoeng Mogoeng’s successor.

Singh stated that Ramaphosa had previously appointed two male judges as Constitutional Court justices, overlooking women who were capable of playing a role in the apex court.

“While we respect the president’s prerogative to appoint people to that court or any court, it was unfortunate at that time that two males were appointed.

“There were two very capable females in that lot we recommended. Yet again the president chose to appoint a male in the position (of chief justice). How did you feel the second time around when a male was appointed by the president?” asked Singh. Justice Maya did not hide her feelings. It is quite disappointing, commissioner.

“All I want to say is that of course we respect the president’s prerogative in making the appointments that he does, but there are constitutional imperatives that still need to be observed. Very disappointingly, with all the lofty Constitution and fancy laws that you in Parliament continue to churn out to ensure equality and human dignity is achieved in this country in our lifetime, South Africa lags far behind many countries insofar as diversifying its judiciary is concerned,” said Justice Maya. She added that women were in the majority in many countries and therefore should be prioritised in line with the 2030 sustainable development goals (SDGs).

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“It is worse when it comes to putting women in leadership positions. Gender equality is one of the key 2030 SDGs, and there is a very good reason that it is one of those things that humanity must achieve sooner than later because no country will thrive if a majority of its citizens are downtrodden. That is a scientific fact.

“This is an issue I feel passionate about. I am now the only (female) head of a court in this country. This body has an opportunity today to change this dismal picture insofar as this one vacancy is concerned. South Africa has never had a woman in its highest echelons.

“I’m the furthest as the president of the Supreme Court that women have come close to smelling what it is to be in charge of a judicial institution,” Justice Maya said.

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Speaker of the National Assembly Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula praised Justice Maya for the good work she had done to fight for women’s rights in the judiciary.

“Thank you very much Judge Maya and good luck. I don’t know if I want to say ‘luck’. It shouldn’t be luck. You have worked for it and you deserve it,” said Mapisa-Nqakula.

Back in March, when explaining why he appointed Justice Zondo against the recommendations of the JSC, Ramaphosa said: “I have every confidence that Justice Zondo will acquit himself with distinction in this position.”

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