Remembering Bizos: ‘Uncle George’, a lion-hearted man and an excellent human

Tributes have continued to pour in for the late George Bizos who died at the age of 92 on Wednesday. Thuli Madonsela, Zack Yaccoob, Edwin Cameron and Zelda le Grange have shared their memories of him.

FILE: Human rights lawyer George Bizos at the soil turning ceremony at Nelson Mandela’s former home in Houghton, which will be turned into a boutique hotel. Picture: EWN

JOHANNESBURG – Former public protector Thuli Madonsela has added her voice to tributes following the death of renowned human rights lawyer, Advocate George Bizos.

Bizos died in Johannesburg on Wednesday, at the age of 92.

Madonsela said as a law student, Bizos' cross-examination skills were a huge inspiration.

“His extraordinary cross-examination technique, that’s what made him famous during my time. They were just extraordinary in the way they were able to cause an apartheid witness to fall apart, or to extract information the police were trying to hide.”


Madonsela said he was aware of his privileges and used that to fight for others.

“He was very clear that the fact that he could come into this country as a poor, white refugee was a testimony to the fact that he worked hard, but also the system allowed as a white person certain privileges that couldn’t he allowed others. He fought for a just South Africa – a South Africa that belongs to everyone.”

Echoing the former public protector’s memory of Bizos, Justice Edwin Cameron has described Bizos as a simple man, who was a fundamental agent of change.

“He was never in this for self-enrichment. The first thing I think is important to say, is that his courage ran deep. He was a lion-hearted man who came to South Africa as a refugee and as a cross-border migrant.”

Another former colleague of the late Bizos remembered him as an excellent lawyer, a fundamental change agent, and a selfless man who fought for justice.

Justice Zack Yacoob has also paid tribute to Bizos, who was one of the architects of the South African Constitution.

“He put his money where his words were, he was very generous to all kinds of organisations, he contributed a great deal. He not only sympathised with poverty verbally, but he made a phenomenal contribution. In all senses, he was an excellent human being.”


Nelson Mandela’s former personal assistant Zelda la Grange has remembered Bizos – whom she affectionately called 'Uncle George' – as a friend who valued law and justice and a peer in both heart and mind for the late President.

“Uncle George is someone that Madiba trusted implicitly. He was someone with whom he shared everything about his life; the most intimate things you can think about – Uncle George knew everything. So he was like a crutch to Madiba, emotionally, but it was a co-dependency I would say.”

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