The late Nelson Mandela’s personal lawyer and anti-apartheid activist George Bizos, has died at 92. Cyril Ramaphosa, President of South Africa, addressed the nation with a message of condolence on Bizosuntimely death.
Bizos, came to South Africa at the age of 13 fleeing the Nazi occupation of Greece. He played a key role in the legal fight to end apartheid, the racist system used to oppress South Africa’s Black majority for decades.
In 1990, Bizos became a member of the African National Congress’ (ANC) Legal and Constitutional Committee, and at Convention for a Democratic South Africa (CODESA) he served as advisor to the negotiating teams and participated in drawing up the Interim Constitution.
“This is a very sad moment for our country,” President Cyril Ramaphosa said.
He was involved in the drafting of legislation, and particularly the Truth and Reconciliation Bill and amendments to the Criminal Procedures Act, to bring it into line with Chapter 3 of the constitution, guaranteeing fundamental human rights to all citizens of South Africa.
“He contributed immensely, immensely, to the attainment of our democracy” and was one of the architects of the post-apartheid constitution. Said Ramaphosa.
The soft-spoken but determined Bizos represented Mandela from his treason trial in 1964 until the former South African president’s death in 2013.
Bizos is credited with getting Mandela to add the words “if needs be” to his speech from the dock in which he said he was prepared to die for his ideals.
The addition was seen as an escape clause, avoiding any impression that Mandela was spurring the court to impose the death penalty.
Mandela, who called Bizos “a man who combined a sympathetic nature with an incisive mind,” trusted him not only to represent him in court but later to carry messages from African National Congress leaders imprisoned on Robben Island to their colleagues in exile.
After Mandela’s release, Bizos lent his legal expertise to negotiations that led to South Africa’s first all-race elections in 1994 after which Mandela became the country’s first Black president.
According to his family, George Bizos died peacefully of natural causes.