The Ahmed Kathrada Foundation is deeply saddened at the death on 9 September 2020 of Adv George Bizos. The Foundation would like to express its sincere condolences to the family, friends and comrades of Adv Bizos.
The Foundation recalls the extremely close personal friendship between its founder, Ahmed Kathrada, and the late Adv Bizos. We remember Adv Bizos fighting back tears at the Westpark Cemetery as he remembered the life and times of Kathrada. At the time Bizos said that Kathy was known for dedicating his life to the cause of the struggle and the realisation of freedom in South Africa. “He was a brave man. He had a sense of humour,” recalled an emotional Bizos.
At various gatherings where Adv Bizos would be present, Kathrada would jokingly say, “What’s George Bizos doing here? He sent us to jail.” Bizos would reply softly, stating that Kathrada should thank him for saving him and the other Rivonia trialists from the gallows.
Today we fight back our tears in memory of Adv Bizos, a great South African, who dedicated his life to fighting apartheid through the courts. We reiterate Kathrada’s remarks about Adv Bizos: “He stands in that long tradition of great human beings who although not born in this country did so much to contribute to its well-being.”
Adv George Bizos was a highly respected, renowned and internationally acclaimed South African lawyer. He was an outstanding human rights activist who made his mark under apartheid while defending among others ANC leaders such as Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu and Ahmed Kathrada during the 1964 Rivonia Trial. A personal friend of Mandela and Oliver Tambo, Adv Bizos acted for the Mandela-Tambo law firm long before Tambo went into exile and Mandela went on trial. He also successfully defended a host of ANC women leaders such as Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, Albertina Sisulu and Barbara Hogan in numerous political trials since the 1960s.
He was appointed by Presidents Mandela and Mbeki to the Judicial Services Commission to recommend candidates for judicial office and to reform the judicial system. He served as a Judge on Botswana’s Court of Appeal between 1985 and 1993. He acted as Counsel at the Legal Resources Centre: Constitutional Litigation Unit, since 1991.
Adv Bizos played a role in all the major political trials over 50 years in the struggle against apartheid such as the Treason and the Rivonia Trials; the Nusas Five Trial; the Delmas Treason Trial and the inquests into the deaths of activists Ahmed Timol, Steve Biko and Dr Neil Aggett. At the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, he opposed the applications for amnesty on behalf of the Biko, Hani, Goniwe, Calata, Mkonto, Mhlauli, Slovo and Schoon families.
In 1974 he was instrumental in establishing the SAHETI School. Its doors were open to all, welcoming widely diverse communities to share in its Hellenic values-driven, universal education.
He has received numerous prestigious South African and international awards for his work in promoting democracy and human rights. He received on 10 June 1999 the Order for Meritorious Service: Class II, bestowed on him by President Nelson Mandela as well as the Commander of the Order of the Phoenix appointed by the President of Greece for contribution to Hellenism and the teaching of Greek. In 2001, he received the International Trial Lawyer Prize of the Year by the International Academy of Trial Lawyers. He had been awarded honorary doctorates by the Universities of the Witwatersrand, Pretoria, Cyprus and Port Elizabeth. He has been honoured by three cities which have bestowed on him “Freedom of the City”, namely, Athens (2010), London (2016) and Johannesburg (2016).
He has written three books: No One to Blame and Odyssey to Freedom and 65 Years of Friendship.
He was married to the late Arethe Bizos (nee Daflos) and is survived by three sons and seven grandchildren.
Hamba Kahle Adv Bizos. Your wise legal counsel and immense love for freedom will be sorely missed!