Renowned human rights advocate and former apartheid struggle stalwart George Bizos has died at the age of 92.
Bizos died peacefully at home late on Wednesday afternoon of natural causes.
President Cyril Ramaphosa sent his condolences to the Bizos family during his engagement with the SA National Editors’ Forum, saying: “I just received news that George Bizos has passed away. I spoke to him two months ago and, when I was speaking to him, it did appear that his health wasn’t what it used to be.
“He is one of those lawyers who contributed immensely in the attainment of our democracy and, as government, we extend our condolences to his family and the nation as a whole.”
Ramaphosa added that Bizos “will be sorely missed, and we dip our heads in remembrance of the contributions he has made”.
Ahmed Kathrada Foundation executive director Neeshan Balton tweeted: “We are immensely saddened by the news of the passing of George Bizos, a towering giant in so many facets of our liberation struggle. Now all the Rivonia Trialists are joined by the last member of their legal team. Hamba kahle, Uncle George.”
According to SA Online, Bizos was born in Greece on November 15 1927 and arrived in South Africa in 1941 as a World War 2 refugee with his father.
The Saheti School, of which Bizos was chair of the board, issued this statement: “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.
“As a community, we have walked alongside a man who has become an icon of the struggle against apartheid in South Africa. As a great role model, he stood up for freedom and justice.”
During the height of apartheid, Bizos dedicated his professional career to the fight for human rights.
He was part of the legal team that defended Nelson Mandela, Govan Mbeki and Walter Sisulu at the Rivonia Treason Trial in 1963 and 1964.
Bizos also played a pivotal role in South Africa’s democracy, and is one of the founding fathers of the country’s Constitution.
Bizos also appeared at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, representing families of liberation heroes such as Steve Biko, Chris Hani and the so-called Cradock Four.
Bizos did most of his legal work through the Legal Resources Centre, which he joined in 1991. He has also been praised for the role he played in mentoring many lawyers who went on to become leading lights in the legal fraternity.Read | Choosing SA: The baton is ours now
The EFF said Bizos represented a dying breed of leaders of integrity and selflessness: “He spent his entire life defending human rights and using his legal expertise to fight against injustice. During apartheid, Bizos spent his time conducting inquests into deaths and human rights abuses.”
The party added that Bizos had defied a United Democratic Front injunction that no lawyer could act on behalf of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela regarding allegations of abductions and assault laid against her.
Bizos is survived by three sons and seven grandchildren. The family said funeral arrangements would be announced soon.