The African National Congress (ANC) dips its revolutionary banner in honour of one of the foremost legal eagles Advocate George Bizos, an activist, a humble, and selfless person whose commitment to justice and love for humanity knew no bounds. Advocate Bizos passed on yesterday, Wednesday the 9th of September aged 92.
In George Bizons we have lost one of the finest lawyers, a principled champion of the downtrodden, who remained unwavering in his commitment to justice until the last days of his life.
Born in Greece, and imbued with a sense of justice and opposition to fascism and oppression from a young age, George Bizos came to South Africa as a refugee in 1941. He became politically active as a law student at the University of the Witwatersrand in the late 1940s and early 1950’s.
As a lawyer George Bizos was fearless, principled, committed and a legendary cross-examiner who was ruthlessly effective in exposing the lies, brutality and moral bankruptcy of the apartheid regime and its agents.
His legal practice was inextricably intertwined with the history of the struggle against apartheid and for the realisation of a united, non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous and just South Africa.
He represented numerous leaders of the liberation movement, including: Albertina Sisulu, Trevor Huddleston, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, Mac Maharaj, Rob Adam, Mosioa Lekota, Popo Molefe and many others.
During the Rivonia Trial he was part of a formidable team of activist lawyers consisting of Bram Fischer, Vernon Berrange, Arthur Chaskalson, and Joel Joffe, who represented members of the High Command of uMkhonto we Sizwe – Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Govan Mbeki, Ahmed Kathrada, Andrew Mlangeni, Raymond Mhlaba, Elias Motsoaledi, and Denis Goldberg, facing the threat of being sentenced to death.
He also represented the families Neil Aggett, Ahmed Timol and Steve Biko at the inquests into their deaths in detention at the hands of the apartheid police.
He was a senior and respected member of the legal profession who rendered selfless service in organisations such as Lawyers for Human Rights and the Legal Resources Centre – where he worked for over twenty years. He worked tirelessly to defend and realise the rights of the vulnerable and oppressed – women, refugees, residents and workers, including mineworkers at Marikana in 2012. He also served as a judge of appeal in Botswana for many years.
He made an immense contribution to laying the foundations of our constitutional democracy by serving as a member of the ANC Legal and Constitutional Committee and the drafting of the Interim Constitution during the Convention for a Democratic South Africa (Codesa).
Acting on the conviction that reconciliation must be based on truth and justice he was instrumental in the drafting of the Promotion of National Unity and Reconciliation Act that established the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).
During the TRC process he vigorously opposed amnesty applications by agents of the apartheid regime on behalf of the families of Steve Biko, Chris Hani, Matthew Goniwe, Fort Calata, Sicelo Mhlauli, Ruth First, and Jeannette and Katryn Schoon. He held the need for accountability as an essential element of nation-building and justice.
He played an active role in the transformation of the judiciary through his participation on the Judicial Services Commission.
He was deeply committed to advancing access to education for all and ensured that SAHETI, the Greek school that he was involved in forming, advanced the vision of a nation united in diversity and established the George Bizos Saheti Scholarship and Bursary Fund to this end.
He was awarded the Order for Meritorious Service Class II by President Mandela in 1999.
We convey our deepest condolences to his sons Alexi, Damon and Kimon and the entire Bizos family.
May his revolutionary soul rest in power!
ISSUED BY THE AFRICAN NATIONAL CONGRESS
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