The Faculty of Law (UP Law) at the University of Pretoria (UP) is deeply saddened by the passing of the steadfast and uncompromising human rights defender Adv George Bizos SC, age 92, on Wednesday, 9 September 2020. Our prayers and thoughts are with his loved ones, the legal fraternity and South Africans at large.
Bizos, a stalwart of the democratic process in South Africa, will be remembered for his services as legal counsel to Nelson Mandela for many years, and for serving on a panel of lawyers who represented the defendants in the Rivonia Trial. He is also remembered for being one of the main architects of our Constitution and his continued dedication to democracy thereafter. His legendary contribution to the defence of human rights and leaders of the liberation will go down in the history books.
For his contribution to access to justice and justice for all spanning over many decades, Bizos received an honorary doctorate degree from UP Law on 9 December 2011. During his acceptance speech, titled 'Don't blame the Constitution or the courts', he raised concerns regarding '[T]he courts, as well as the individuals and organisations that bring human rights cases against the executive, to who some impute false moves, have been subject to severe criticims bordering on demonisation. South Africa is a constitutional democracy. All power, whether of Parliament, the executive or the courts, must be exercised in accordance with the Constitution, which is the final word of the powers and roles of each branch.'
UP mourns the passing of a monumental figure in the South African legal fraternity and history. He will be remembered globally as a campaigner for human rights who defied and exposed the previous government through its own legal system, and shielded citizens from injustice and harassment by the former govenrment. Through his dedication to justice, he laid the foundations for a democratic South Africa in which the rule of law affirms the dignity, rights and protection of all who live in South Africa. We mourn the loss of one of the most exceptional legal eagles of the century.
Rest in peace, Adv Bizos SC.