Transcending apartheid’s cruel race laws​: an inside look into Mandela & Bizos' friendship

22 October 2017 - 00:00 By George Bizos
George Bizos and his lifelong friend Nelson Mandela.
George Bizos and his lifelong friend Nelson Mandela.

In his book, 65 Years of Friendship,  veteran human rights campaigner George Bizos tells of his friendship with Nelson Mandela, who he first met at university. 

One of the few places where they could relax was Little Swallow in Commissioner Street, across the road from police headquarters: “Its Cantonese owners turned a blind eye to our breach of the law prohibiting blacks and whites from eating together. The policemen who wandered in extended us the same courtesy.”

Here they would debate the writings of ancient philosophers and muse on the lessons of history: “Civil war was a matter that concerned both Nelson and me ...  Some commentators have claimed that Nelson’s commitment to forgiveness and reconciliation was something that he mellowed into in prison, but that is not my understanding. From the very early days of our acquaintance, he was clear that black racism in retaliation for white racism would tear South Africa apart.”

The years 1956 to 1961 were dominated by the Treason Trial. Mandela was now a client,  as well as a friend and a colleague. In 1963, he was sent to Robben Island for five years, which became life imprisonment after the Rivonia Trial in 1964. With a finely recalled wealth of personal and professional detail, Bizos brings these turbulent times to life.

Read the full story on the Sunday Times website