South Africa mourns George Bizos
South Africans from different walks of life are mourning renowned human rights lawyer Advocate George Bizos SC, who died on Wednesday at 92.
His death was confirmed by his family, the Legal Resources Centre (LRC), the Bizos Sahet Scholarship and Bursary in a joint statement on Wednesday.
According to LRC, since its inception 1978, Bizos had been assisting the organisation but only joined it in 1991.
“He used our centre as a key base in litigation including leading the team for the government in passing the Constitution in 1996, representing apartheid victims, leading the LRC team at the Marikana Commission, seeking justice for the Timol and other families of people murdered in detention and many other lesser cases,” the statement said.
Teresa Yates, the former LRC deputy director spoke glowingly of Bizos.
“A deep appreciation for all that George contributed getting South Africa to a democracy that we have today and appreciation for his unending commitment and dedication to ensuring that this democracy and the rights that are contained in our constitution are available to everyone in South Africa,” Yates said.
Bizos represented notable figures like Nelson Mandela, Govan Mbeki, Walter Sisulu, and the late firebrand Zimbabwe’s main opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai on his treason trial. He played a huge role in the negotiations leading to the release of Mandela and other prominent political prisoners. He and Arthur Chaskalson assisted in the drafting of the South African constitution.
African National Congress (ANC) ‘s spokesperson Pule Mabe said: “He began his legal career at a time when our own freedom fighters were going through something that came to be known as Rivonia trial”.
“While he did not originally have a South African citizenship, he began to love this country as his very own and for that, we are greatly indebted.”
Bizos started practicing as an advocate in 1954. He held appointments in the Judicial Service Commission from 1994-2009. He has also been an acting judge in the High Court of South Africa as well as in Botswana’s Appeal Court.
Former public protector Professor Thuli Madonsela said: “He fought a good fight in pursuit of a just South Africa that belongs to all who live in it”.
“It is sad to see this resolute social justice and integrity crusader go to join Madiba and his compatriots.”
Former Economic Freedom Fighter (EFF) secretary general Godrich Gardee said: “He was a tower of wisdom and contributed immensely on the judiciary and he was an anti racism activist”.
“He has actually impacted positively to a new generation of advocates and attorneys in his writings and in his arguments in corts in defense of the most vulnerable to bring about justice to our people,” Gardee said
United Democratic Movement (UDM) party leader Bantu Holomisa also paid tribute to the late advocate.
“George’s history is well documented when it comes to fighting for the rights of South Africans in particular the black South Africans and on a number of occasions, he has done this work pro bono,” Holomisa said.
President Cyril Ramaphosa lauded Bizos for his contribution to the country.
“George Bizos is one of those lawyers who have contributed immensely to attainment of our democracy. As the government, we extend our condolences to his family, and to all of us as South Africans, because Gorge Bizos‘name was a family name, well-known name, and he had an incisive legal mind and was also one of the architects of our one of our constitution. We deep our heads in honor of the contribution that George Bizos has made to our democracy,” Ramaphosa said.
Advocate Dali Mpofu, who once worked with Bizoz said: “He played a significant role in the Marikana Commission and one day, when I write a book, I will reveal some of the ways in which he assisted us even when it was not directly affecting his own clients,” Mpofu said.
Nelson Mandela Foundation’s Luzuko Koti said: “We will remember him for fearlessness, for being committed to freedom, for being an advocate for equality and for being a lover of this country”.
Bizos worked closely with the Nelson Mandela Foundation, Freedom Under Law, and Lawyers for Human Rights.
He was also a member of Committees for Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles, both in South Africa and the United Kingdom. President Nelson Mandela also awarded Bizos an Order for Meritorious Service Medal in 1999.
Born on 15 November 1927, Bizos arrived in South Africa from Greece at a tender age of 13 as refugee after his father helped soldiers escape German Nazis.