Renowned human rights advocate George Bizos has died aged 92. He died late this afternoon.
Bizos celebrated his 92nd birthday in November last year. He was born on 15 November 1927 .
In a statement, the SAHETI school, which Bizos founded, sent its condolences to the Bizos family.
“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.’
“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 and endorsed Hellenic values displaying the virtues of respect, courage and duty, even if at own personal cost.
“Advocate Bizos was a proud family man, a person of great integrity and courage, and one who encapsulated the dictum by Socrates that, ‘It is not living that matters, but living rightly’.
“The SAHETI family has been truly honoured to have had the privilege of knowing Advocate George Bizos and sharing part of his life with him. He was the embodiment of Alexander the Great’s words: ‘There is nothing impossible to him who will try’.”
Condolences have been pouring in following news of his passing.
Bizos was until his passing, the only surviving member of the Rivonia Trial defence, where he was part of a team representing the likes of Nelson Mandela and Ahmed Kathrada. He was a celebrated human rights lawyer and was also a founding member of the Legal Resources Centre.
As a refugee, Bizos related to those who had been oppressed when he arrived in this country. Born in a coastal village in Greece, Bizos’ democrat father, Antonios, organised the escape of seven New Zealand soldiers who he found near his village during World War II. Young Bizos would accompany his dad on a fishing boat with the soldiers before being found by a British ship during a volatile sea day.
Eventually, having arrived in Egypt, Bizos was put into an orphanage. It was here that his father made a decision one could say added significantly to South Africa’s history.
“We had a choice to either go to India or South Africa. My father had heard you could pick gold and diamonds off the pavement in South Africa – and that is how we got here,” Bizos told The Citizen in 2015.
Much later in life, after being admitted as a lawyer, Bizos became known for representing those in the struggle. He did not belong to any political party, however.
“I became known in the fifties as the young, uppity political lawyer. I think I enjoyed the name. The fact my father had been defrocked by a dictator … the fact there was a civil war in Greece … all those things had an influence on my life.”
He eventually went on to convince Mandela to use the words “if needs be” in his infamous Rivonia trial speech. His inspiration in convincing Mandela was Socrates.
“I was so inspired by what Socrates did. Socrates said: ‘I have done no wrong. What I have been preaching to you is right.’”
Human Rights Advocate George Bizos has died.
— Heidi Giokos (@HeidiGiokos) September 9, 2020
BREAKING – Human Rights lawyer George Bizos has passed away
— Ashraf Garda (@AshrafGarda) September 9, 2020
The Ahmed Kathrada Foundation is saddened by the news that veteran human rights lawyer George Bizos has passed away ????
— Kathrada Foundation (@KathradaFound) September 9, 2020
— @COSATU Today (@_cosatu) September 9, 2020
We mourn the passing of a giant – RIP George Bizos, a lawyer who dedicated his life and skills to defend human rights & secure and deepen democracy ????????????????
— CASAC (@CASACZA) September 9, 2020