Human Rights lawyer George Bizos laid to rest in Johannesburg

Updated: Sep 19, 2020

Human rights lawyer and activist, George Bizos, has been laid to rest at Westpark Cemetery in Randburg, Johannesburg.

The Bizos family held a private family service ahead of the Special Official Funeral, which president Cyril Ramaphosa declared.

Ramaphosa described Bizos as a man led by his moral convictions and one who was on the right side of history.

"He was destined to be an activist lawyer and a champion of the liberation struggle. We read in his memoirs how it astounded him that he, a refugee from Europe, had more rights in South Africa than the black majority," Ramaphosa said in his eulogy.

"His contribution has been extraordinary and his influence on our constitutional democracy is without any doubt felt not only by those in the legal profession, but by many South Africans," Ramaphosa added.

Bizos represented Mandela during the Rivonia trial ,which saw Mandela and seven others sentenced to life imprisonment in 1964 on charges of seeking to overthrow the racist apartheid government. Many had expected the death penalty.

Among his other high-profile work, Bizos defended the family of Black Consciousness Movement leader Steve Biko, who died in 1977 in police detention, and communist leader Chris Hani, who was assassinated in 1993.

Bizos was a senior member of the Johannesburg Bar in 1978. He was a member of the National Council of Lawyers for Human Rights, which he helped found in 1979. He was Senior Counsel at the Legal Resources Centre in Johannesburg in the Constitutional Litigation Unit. He also served as a judge on Botswana's Court of Appeal from 1985 to 1993.

A revered national figure, he continued working into his late 80s. One of his last major trials secured government payouts in 2014 for families of 34 miners shot dead by police at Marikana north-west of Johannesburg.