The Rise of African Women Chief Justices: A Missed Opportunity for South Africa?

By: Maame Efua Addadzi-Koom, Research and Innovation Lead, IAWL.

On March 10, 2022, it was announced that President Ramaphosa had appointed Deputy Chief Justice, Justice Raymond Zondo, as the next Chief Justice of the Republic of South Africa effective April 1, 2022. The announcement also mentioned that President Ramaphosa had nominated Justice Mandisa Maya, the only female Chief Justice nominee, for the position of Deputy Chief Justice after becoming vacant in April. Although she will have to be interviewed for the position.

In September 2021, President Ramaphosa made a public invitation for Chief Justice nominees after Chief Justice Mogoeng retired. About 500 names were submitted out of which only four were shortlisted. Of the four shortlisted nominees, Justice Maya, President of the Supreme Court of Appeal, was the only woman. Not only that, she was also the first woman ever to be interviewed for the Chief Justice position in South Africa’s history. Since South Africa was yet to have a female Chief Justice, many women advocates believed that, with Justice Maya’s nomination, South Africa was finally going to chalk up its first. The March 10 announcement, therefore, left some women activists’ circles completely nonplussed. Did South Africa miss an opportunity? How long before such an opportunity presents itself again?

Women in South Africa are more than men. Yet, the gender composition of South Africa’s judiciary does not reflect this demographic. As of 2021, 43% percent of all