South Africa: It Takes a (Kwazulu-Natal) Village to Raise a Chief Justice

A journey back to the roots of SA’s new Chief Justice, Raymond Zondo, takes us to a small village in Ixopo in southern KwaZulu-Natal.

We arrived at Emazabekweni, the birthplace of Raymond Zondo, almost a week after his appointment as our new Chief Justice by President Cyril Ramaphosa. The road leading to the village is made of gravel and is almost impenetrable during heavy rains. Youth mill around the road, doing nothing.

The main source of income here is social grants and some of the villagers supplement it by planting their own gardens.

Many residents here, especially the young, said they didn’t know Zondo personally but they often hear about him on the news. But there were a few elders who had intimate knowledge of him.

The house in which Zondo grew up only has walls still standing. In the late 1980s, when Zondo was a human right’s lawyer at the Legal Resources Centre in Durban, it was torched during the political violence between the Inkatha Freedom Party and supporters of the ANC. Zondo’s family members fled the area and established another home in Jolivet, about 30km away.

Mebbie Zondi (63) lives in a house across the dirt road from…

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