South Africa’s late human rights lawyer George Bizos was a man led by his “moral convictions and was on the right side of history,” President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Thursday.
Ramaphosa said this when he paid tribute to Bizos at his funeral before being laid to rest at Westpark Cemetery in Randburg, Johannesburg, on Thursday afternoon.
The late activist, who defended Nelson Mandela and other freedom fighters in their treason trials, died last week at the age of 92 after a long illness.
According to the president, Bizos “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 citizens.”
He added: “He could not and would not accept how he, a white immigrant, could be well-fed, clothed and educated, while the native people of the country lived in squalor and deprivation.”
Bizos’ involvement in the anti-apartheid struggle, saw the apartheid government denied him citizenship for over three decades.
Ramaphosa recalled in his eulogy that Bizos’s biography relates how the apartheid government told him he was ‘not fit and proper’ to become a South African citizen.
This, however, did not discourage Bizos from his determination to fight for the rights of the country’s majority African population, with his presence gracing some of the most famous political trials in South African history.
“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 said.
He added: “For him, the struggle did not end with democracy -- but would only end when every man, woman and child enjoyed the rights promised to them.”