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Chief Justice Appointment 2024

Chief Justice Appointment 2024

Chief Justice Appointment 2024

On 27 February 2024 President Ramaphosa kickstarted the process to appoint a new Chief Justice of South Africa by nominating Deputy Chief Justice Mandisa Maya as the sole candidate.

Justice Maya will success current Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, who retires on 31 August 2024, at the end of his 12-year term as a justice of the Constitutional Court.

The Constitution – section 174(3) – gives the  President a choice to nominate either one candidate or several for the post of chief justice. Unlike in 2022, when the President nominated four candidates, this time he only nominated one candidate.

Further to the nomination, the President must also consult both the Judicial Service Commission and the leaders of political parties in Parliament on the suitability of a candidate for appointment as chief justice.

The Judicial Service Commission has indicated that, as part of the consultation process, it will host an interview with Justice Maya on 21 May 2024, where she will have the opportunity to outline her vision for the role of chief justice and the broader judiciary. [Learn more]

After the interview, the JSC will send through its views to the president, who will then make the formal appointment, likely with effect from 1 September 2024.

On this page we outline some of the features of the role of Chief Justice and the appointment process.

The crucial role of the Chief Justice

It is no exaggeration to say that the Chief Justice’s role is hugely significant, not only for the judiciary itself, but for the functioning of our constitutional democracy in general.



Process for appointing the Chief Justice

The process for appointing the Chief Justice differs significantly from the appointment of other judges and gives the President much more power than is the case in the appointment of other judges.



Criteria for the Appointment of a Chief Justice

It is clear that a potential Chief Justice must possess a wide range of qualities and attributes. Indeed, meeting the qualities discussed in this article appears to be a superhuman task. A potential Chief Justice will be required to be an influential leader on several levels, both as the head of the Constitutional Court (the highest court in the country), and the head of the entire judiciary. Not every judge will necessarily meet these standards.



The Chief Justice’s powers when dealing with errant judges

The convening power of the role of the Chief Justice as chair of the various structures which deal with judicial conduct is critical, as is his (their) chairpersonship of the JSC and as chair of other structures. In addition to this, his (their) ability to use “soft power” should not be underestimated. The leadership of any entity has the power to encourage, persuade and warn, which are not in the formal powers of a leader, but are critical in making any institution function well.



Learn more about Deputy Chief Justice Mandisa Maya

Justice Mandisa Maya is one of South Africa’s most senior judges, having first been appointed to the High Court in 2000 and now serving as Deputy Chief Justice – the first woman to do so. Maya would bring a wealth of knowledge and experience of the judiciary, as a judge of 20 odd years and a judicial leader in recent years. She also has the intellectual clout to restore the gravitas of South Africa’s apex court. These qualities far eclipse the fact that she is also a woman.



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