In her message on the passing of George Bizos, Mama Graça Machel said that Bizos was the last of Madiba’s closest friends to depart from us.
“Madiba and George were more than special friends, they were two souls with an uncompromising zest for justice.
In different trenches, but complementing each other in a remarkable journey of 6 decades, of loyal friendship and brotherhood, walking hand in hand.
The sense of extreme loss and emptiness has visited upon me once again and its ferocity is indescribable.
For me, George was the towering older brother, a friend, the barometer that guided me in my darkest times.
To his children, grandchildren and closest family, my sincere solidarity and condolences. Our family relationship doesn’t end here.
George, I know you are in the best of company with Rita & Madiba. Hamba Kahle!” Machel said.
Bizos passed away, reportedly from natural causes, at his home on Wednesday. He was 92.
Bizos was born in the Greek town of Vasilitsi on November 15 1927.
In 1941, when he was 13, he fled Nazi-occupied Greece for South Africa.
He went on to study for a law degree at Wits University and entered politics soon afterwards.
The veteran lawyer has been hailed for his work in the Rivonia Trial, during which he defended Nelson Mandela, Ahmed Kathrada, Andrew Mlangeni, Walter Sisulu and other accused Trialists.
Over the years, Bizos had also represented Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and the families of mine workers killed during the Marikana massacre.
President Cyril Ramaphosa has extended his condolences to the Bizos family.
The president said he last spoke to Bizos two months ago, and it appeared his health “was not in good shape”.
“Bizos is one of those lawyers who contributed immensely to the attainment of our democracy. He was one of the architects of our Constitution and he will sorely be missed,” Ramaphosa said.
DA interim leader John Steenhuisen said Bizos was “an advocate and champion for human rights, as well as a giant of the struggle for freedom in South Africa. [He led] a life of activism and service well lived.”
Former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela said: “He fought a good fight in pursuit of a just South Africa that belongs to all who live in it.
The Saheti School in Johannesburg, which Bizos was a founding chairperson, has also paid tribute to the advocate.
“We are privileged as a school to have benefited from the life of a man who gave of his time and energy contributing to the shaping of Saheti as we know it and enabling us to aim just a little higher,” it said.