George Bizos, the anti-apartheid hero died a natural death at his Johannesburg home last week, at the age of 92.
On Thursday, September 17, South Africa gave him the final burial rites. He was the anti-aparthied lawyer who represented Nelson Mandela at his trial for treason. His relationship with Nelson Mandela overtime made people regard as him as his personal friend.
The burial rites was a small gathering due to coronavirus restriction, however, it had President Cyril Ramaphosa and some other dignitaries in attendance.
Ramaphosa described Bizos as a “hero”, a “lover of freedom” and compared him to a “baobab tree”.
“We are here to celebrate and also to bid farewell to a titan of the legal profession whose defence of the cause of justice was as tenacious and it was lifelong,” said Ramaphosa.
“At the height of the apartheid era, Bizos secured a life sentence for Mandela and others fighting white-minority rule at the landmark Rivonia Trial in 1964.
“Against all expectations, the defendants were spared the death penalty and instead given long jail terms — a verdict that turned them into the living embodiment of the anti-apartheid struggle.
“He represented various activities towards campaign against the white-minority regime and was later instrumental in drawing up the constitution of post-apartheid South Africa,” the president explained.
For 30 years he was denied the South African citizenship due to his campaign against the white-minority regime
“The apartheid government punished him quite severely by denying him citizenship for over three decades and there he was living stateless in a country that he had adopted,” Ramaphosa said.
The regime told him “he was not fit and proper to become a South African citizen,” said the president.
Yet Bizos was a “patriot” and “the embodiment of a fit and proper South African citizen,” Ramaphosa said.
He continued working until he was past 90 years old, with one of his last major cases securing government payouts in 2014 for the families of 34 miners gunned down two years earlier.
Bizos arrived in South Africa as a 13-year-old war refugee from Greece and trained as a lawyer.
His passing further reduces the number of surviving leaders of the apartheid struggle, whose status wields huge moral and political influence in modern-day South Africa.
In his autobiography “Long Walk to Freedom” (1994), Mandela describes Bizos as a lifelong friend and “a man who combined a sympathetic nature with an incisive mind”.
Bizos continued to represent Mandela throughout his 27-year-jail term and also acted on behalf of his wife, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, on more than 20 occasions.
Ramaphosa concluded his eulogy by saying: “Madiba your friend of 65 years is waiting to welcome you”.