In Memoriam: Advocate George Bizos SC

It is with sadness that we have learned of the passing of Advocate George Bizos SC at the age of 92. George Bizos will forever be remembered as one of South Africa’s preeminent legal stalwarts, having dedicated his life to fighting for justice, human rights, and democracy.

Picture of Trio.pngGeorge Bizos arrived in South Africa in 1941, a refugee from war torn Greece, at the tender age of 13. This, no doubt, created a resilience and desire for justice which characterised the rest of his life. After completing the BA and subsequently the LLB at the University of the Witwatersrand he was admitted to the Johannesburg Bar in 1954. His career saw him participate in the Rivonia Trials in which he is accredited for directing Nelson Mandela to add the qualification "if needs be" to his trial address, which may very well have spared South Africa’s first democratically elected president from a sentence of death. His unapologetic and audacious tenacity in the pursuit of justice continued throughout his career, during our darkest times, and during the post 1994 period.

George Bizos was particularly active during the Truth and Reconciliation Commission process and he appeared on behalf of the Biko, Hani, Goniwe, Calata, Mkonto, Mhlauli, Slovo and Schoon families. He also played a significant role in drafting South Africa's final Constitution.

President Nelson Mandela had appointed George Bizos to serve on the Judicial Service Commission from 1994 to 2009. Subsequently, when the Helen Suzman Foundation sought to sue the JSC, we drew heavily on George’s advice and counsel. Even though it took the HSF some five and a half years for the Constitutional Court to rule in our favour after numerous losses, George’s unfailing support was a source of great inspiration to all of us.

Never simply a party man, he was a true patriot, putting the interests of the nation first. George's legacy must also be remembered as a vocal and powerful critic of corruption, state capture, and of any attempts at weakening the rule of law. The picture above is testament to when with Justice Johann Kriegler, and Francis Antonie (the Director of the HSF) he led the protests against the fraudulent attempt by the Hawks (and subsequently the NPA) to implicate Minister Pravin Gordhan in corruption.

George and members of his family were familiar faces at the Helen Suzman Foundation’s Round Table and Annual Memorial events. A testament also to his regard for his friendship with Helen Suzman.

We shall miss him greatly.

Our deepest condolences to his family and friends.

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