George Bizos, who advocated for human rights and defended poor people throughout his life, has passed away at the age of 92, from natural causes. Bizos, who grew up in a small rural village in Greece, became one of South Africa’s most distinguished and celebrated lawyers. He was part of the team that defended Nelson Mandela and others at the Rivonia Trial and helped to ensure that they were spared the death penalty. He defended the United Democratic Front (UDF) leaders at the Delmas Treason Trial and represented Steve Biko’s family at the inquest into his death. He was also a kind human being who left an impression on all who met him.
Tributes have poured in, remembering him as a legend, a giant amongst men, the people’s Advocate and a lawyer with one of the sharpest minds in the legal fraternity.
President Cyril Ramaphosa said Bizos had an “incisive legal mind” and was one of the architects of the SA Constitution. The President said: “The passing of George Bizos is a sad moment for our country. He contributed immensely to the attainment of our democracy… He will sorely be missed and we dip our heads in honour of the contribution he made to our democracy, we will forever remember his contribution.”
Western Cape Premier Alan Winde said: “I am saddened to hear of the passing of Adv. George Bizos. His fight for democracy and human rights will not be forgotten, and his legacy will live on through his many good works which continue to today.”
Former Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba said: “We have lost a legend. Deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Human Rights Advocate George Bizos. South Africa owes you a debt of gratitude. May you rest in eternal peace. #RIPGeorgeBizos”
Aki Anastasiou said: “George Bizos was an extraordinary human being. A principled man who stood for what is right. I’ve known him for most of my life, from the very first day Saheti School opened in 1974. Such an important influence in my life. South Africa is emptier without you Sir. #RIPGeorgeBizos”
Saheti School posted its own moving tribute. It said:
It is with great sadness that we inform you about the passing of Advocate George Bizos, our founding Chairman of the Board, past grandparent and long-standing friend of SAHETI. Our prayers and thoughts are with the family during this time of grief. May his soul rest in peace.
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. The Greeks have a word for this, and it is called ‘philotimo’ – loosely translated as a love of honour and belonging within our community.
Advocate George Bizos was one of the original visionaries who founded SAHETI 47 years ago and served relentlessly, first as Chairman of the Board for nearly 20 years and thereafter as Honourary Life Member. He was a familiar face at SAHETI Board meetings, as well as school celebrations for many years, until his health started affecting his mobility in middle of 2018.
For those who knew ‘Papou George’, SAHETI School formed an integral part of who he was and where his passion lay. His words of wisdom, personal life lessons and positive nature were an inspiration and will remain with us forever. 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”.
May his memory be eternal – aιωνία η μνήμη του.
Mr Warwick Taylor – Executive Headmaster
- How 2 teachers helped George Bizos become a lawyer
- Jimmy, the Rivonia Trial and George Bizos famous lamb-on-the-spit
Dear SAHETI CommunityIt is with great sadness that we inform you about the passing of Advocate George Bizos, our…
He fought a good fight in pursuit of a Just South Africa that belongs to all who live in it. Sad to see this resolute social justice and integrity crusader go to join Madiba and his other compatriots. Heartfelt Condolences to the family, friends and colleagues #RIPGeorgeBizos pic.twitter.com/XrmfZi85Cc
— Prof Thuli Madonsela (@ThuliMadonsela3) September 9, 2020