Bizos was one of the pillars I leaned on during the storms I faced as public protector – Madonsela

Advocate Thuli Madonsela has paid tribute to the late human rights lawyer George Bizos, saying he was one of the pillars she leaned on during the "storms" she faced as Public Protector.

Bizos died on Wednesday afternoon at the age of 92. He represented Nelson Mandela in both the Treason and Rivonia trials.

In her tribute, Madonsela described Bizos as an "intellectual giant with immense knowledge, particularly of the law and Greek history – philosophy".

She also said he was a "gentle, considerate and egalitarian human being".

Madonsela said Bizos' contribution to the building and delivery of the country's young democracy was "incalculable".

"His departure leaves a discernible vacuum in the human rights, anti-corruption and democratic governance space. We will never forget them. That refers to him, Mandela and his other contemporaries.

"The best way to honour them is to take the nation and make visible progress on the constitutional commitment to heal the divisions of the past and establish a society founded on democratic values, social justice and human rights."

Meanwhile, advocate Geoff Budlender SC, said Bizos represented the famous and the humble alike.

"His clients weren't only the Nelson Mandelas; his clients were the humblest of people," Budlender said.


"Some of the work he was proudest of and most liked speaking of, was his work in the 1950s in the Northern Transvaal, representing women who were resisting and fighting the passbook laws.

"That to him was as important as the famous show trials. He believed that human rights were for everybody, and he cared about people," he said.

Budlender said Bizos was a man who cared about justice and people.

"He was a man of great generosity and warmth, and he was liked by many. I think the most important thing that he wanted us to understand is that human rights matter, and people matter – and that they should be at the centre of our professional work."

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