Justice Sisi Khampepe has been appointed by President Cyril Ramaphosa to take over the duties of Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng who is on long leave.
In a statement, the Constitutional Court said the role would have been ordinarily filled by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo. However, Zondo is currently presiding over the state capture commission.
Khampepe was appointed as acting deputy chief justice with effect from 1 May 2021.
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"In terms of the Superior Courts Act, as acting deputy chief justice, Justice Khampepe will exercise the powers and perform the functions of the chief justice as acting chief justice," the court added.
A Harvard graduate, Khampepe is the first woman to occupy the seat in the highest court in the land.
She previously acted as a deputy judge in the Gauteng Division of the High Court and in 1995 was one of the commissioners at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Her legal career spans more than 40 years.
It is unclear how long Mogoeng's leave will last, however, his term as chief justice will come to an end at the end of October.
Recently, he has been making headlines for his views on South Africa's foreign policy on Israel.
A Judicial Conduct Committee (JCC) found against him in the case and he was ordered to apologise for and retract his comments.
He filed an appeal last month against the JCC ruling.