THE MAN BEHIND THE HEADLINES
YOU South Africa|20 January 2022
YOU sits down with state capture judge Raymond Zondo and finds his home is much like him – no fuss or frills
SIPHOKAZI ZAMA
WHEN he was asked to head up the state capture inquiry, he didn’t hesitate to take the job. He knew presiding over a commission that could change the path of South Africa would be a huge responsibility, but Judge Raymond Zondo felt honour bound to do it.

For the past four years, with the world looking on, he’s grilled politicians and others about their role in state capture. He’s stared down people who had angry outbursts and displayed immense calm when things threatened to get out of hand.

When we meet the acting chief justice at his Durban home on an overcast and humid Thursday afternoon, he’s relaxed and far from the fierce legal expert South Africans saw on screens day in and day out.

Gone are the suits and ties we got to know him in – he’s dressed casually in navy trousers and a navy kaftan-style top with tribal embroidery.

The judge is warm and welcoming, easy to laugh with and quite down-toearth.

His home at the end of a quiet street is very much like the man – no fuss or frills. The garden is lush and there’s a small pool but there are no ostentatious displays of wealth nor the sky-high fences that so often tell you someone of importance lives here.

In the lounge, we sink into cream leather couches. Next to a tranquil painting above the fireplace is a framed image of Nelson Mandela in his Robben Island prison cell, and a Christmas tree with all the trimmings is still set up in one corner.

But taking down the tree was the last thing on his mind: the judge has been consumed with filing the first part of the Zondo report on State Capture by the start of the year.

It’s been a long four years since the commission began and he’s eager to get it done. He submitted the first report on 4 January and will submit the final two parts by the end of February.

The looting that has hollowed out the state keeps him awake at night. “The money that is lost to corruption should be helping people who are in greatest need of services. That is money that could be used in hospitals or build toilets in schools,” he says.

The quality of education in rural schools and dysfunctional hospitals also worry him.

Yet the acting chief justice doesn’t feel a sense of hopelessness. We can all play a role in making the country a better place to live, in big and small ways, he believes.

“It is important that we continue to have hope,” he says. “We mustn’t wait for somebody else to do something – in your own way, every day, you need to do something that you know makes South Africa a better country.”

AS A young boy growing up in Kromhoek and Ixopo, two small towns in Kwa Zulu-Natal, he had no intention of becoming a lawyer.

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