Justice Ray Zondo was born at Ixopo, Kwa-Zulu Natal. He is married and he and his wife have been blessed with four children.
He obtained his secondary and high school education at St Mary’s Seminary at Ixopo where he matriculated. He studied law at the University of Zululand, University of Natal (now University of Kwa-Zulu Natal) and later at the University of South Africa. He holds the following degrees:
- B. Iuris (University of Zululand)
- LLB (University of Natal)
- LLM (cum laude) in labour law (University of South Africa)
- LLM with specialization in commercial law (University of South Africa)
- LLM (in patent law) (University of South Africa)
Justice Zondo served part of his articles of clerkship under the late Mrs Victoria Mxenge in the latter’s law firm in Durban. After Mrs Mxenge’s assassination by apartheid agents, Justice Zondo ceded his articles of clerkship to Mthembu & Partners and later to Chennels Alberton Attorneys. After admission as an attorney he became a partner in a Durban law firm, Mathe and Zondo Incorporated, in which he practised for a number of years before he was appointed as a Judge. He also served on a part-time basis as a mediator and arbitrator. In 1991 and 1992 Justice Zondo served in two committees of the Commission of Inquiry Regarding the Prevention of Public Violence and Intimidation (also known as the Goldstone Commission) which investigated violence in South Africa during the early 1990’s.
In 1994 Justice Zondo was appointed as a member of the Ministerial Task Team which was given the task of producing a draft Labour Relations Bill for the post-apartheid South Africa. With certain amendments, that Bill was later passed as the Labour Relations Act, 1995. In 1996 he was appointed as the first chairperson of the Governing Body of the Commission for the Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) from which position he resigned upon appointment as a Judge
With effect from 1 February 1997 Justice Zondo was appointed as an Acting Judge of the Labour Court. With effect from 1 November 1997 he was appointed as a Judge of the Labour Court. In April/May 1999 he was appointed as a Judge of the then Transvaal Provincial Division of the High Court (now the North Gauteng Division of the High Court) in Pretoria. With effect from 1 August 1999 he was appointed as Acting Judge President of the Labour Appeal Court and Labour Court. With effect from 1 May 2000 he was appointed as Judge President of the Labour Appeal Court and Labour Court for a term of office of ten years.
While he was Judge President, Justice Zondo served in various ad hoc committees established by the Heads of Courts. These included a committee, chaired by Chief Justice P.N Langa, which drew up a document to be used by the Judiciary in dealing with complaints about racism and sexism within the Judiciary. He also served in committees chaired by Judge President Ngoepe which was established by the Heads of Courts to organize the first and second Conferences of Judges in post-apartheid South Africa. Justice Zondo also chaired a committee of the Heads of Courts which looked into the use of official languages in courts.
After completing his term of office as Judge President in 2010, Justice Zondo returned to the North Gauteng Division of the High Court and resumed his duties as a Judge of that court.
With effect from 1 November 2011 Justice Zondo was appointed as an Acting Judge of the Constitutional Court until 31 May 2012. On the 13th August 2012 he was appointed as a Judge of the Constitutional Court with effect from the 1st September 2012.
On 01 June 2017 Justice Zondo was appointed as Deputy Chief Justice of the Republic of South Africa. On 01 April 2022, Deputy Chief Justice Zondo was appointed as Chief Justice of the Republic of South Africa.
Justice Zondo has published articles and written chapters in three books.
Honours and awards
In March 2011 Justice Zondo was honoured by the KZN Legal Forum, consisting of many legal bodies, with an award for his contribution to human rights in South Africa