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'A majestic South African': Tributes pour in for George Bizos at memorial

Speakers have hailed advocate George Bizos for humility and passion for humanity. File photo.
Speakers have hailed advocate George Bizos for humility and passion for humanity. File photo.
Image: Sowetan/Thulani Mbele

Renowned human rights lawyer George Bizos embodied humility, social cohesion and a passion for human rights.

This is according to various speakers at a virtual memorial service held on Tuesday.

Bizos passed away at home, attended to by his family, on September 9. He was laid to rest on Thursday last week.

“He was a majestic South African. He showed us what law should be. George, using the law, sought the space for mercy. George is our constitution. It [the constitution] requires fighters of his calibre,” said Freedom Under Law CEO Nicole Fritz.

National Association of Democratic Lawyers (Nadel) secretary-general Nolitha Jali said Bizos represented even the “small’” man with great passion.

“He demonstrated how legal practitioners could act as catalysts of the law. He lived a full life, one that did not make wealth and pleasure its end objective.

“The principles that Bizos lived by should be passed on to children and grandchildren and generation of lawyers to come. They must emulate Bizos in all respects that he conducted himself,” said Gcina Malindi SC.

He described Bizos as a person who loved humanity.

“He did not only serve my comrades, but he became friends with them and their families. I can claim him as a friend. George’s humanity could be seen in all people he socialised with. There was no political trial that was too big or too small for him. He acted on behalf  of everyone with the same vigour,” Malindi said.

Former Constitutional Court justice Albie Sachs said about Bizos: “Humour, heart, humanity - he embodied the three.

“I will remember his stories after the cases he was involved in. The sense of justice lived inside of him. He hated hypocrisy. He retained hope all the way through. He had sense of hope. That positivity in him resonated with everybody.

“He enjoyed being in the struggle. He did not demand anything, he did not claim anything.”

Justice and correctional services minister Ronald Lamola said Bizos was without a doubt the “bulwark” against the injustices that occurred in apartheid South Africa and even post-apartheid SA.

“He was more than a brave and passionate defender of human rights, he was a warm and caring human being with boundless empathy and support for those he represented,” he said.

“He was also one of the main architects of our constitution – a constitution which would later be hailed by another legal legend who we also had to bid a sad farewell to recently, US Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, as a shining example to other countries looking for a new constitution.”

Lamola hailed Bizos for having spoken out against corruption.

Wits vice-chancellor Adam Habib said the country needed to honour the non-racial life Bizos lived.

“He was such a loyal person to his principles and beliefs, friends and family,” said Graca Machel, former president Nelson Mandela's wife.

She said Bizos was the only person she and her family could turn to after Mandela died.

“I'm distraught because we feel we have nowhere to turn to. We will always treasure your presence in our lives,” added Machel.