George Bizos was a remarkable human being: Dikgang Moseneke
Former deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke on Thursday delivered a moving tribute to his friend and role model, advocate George Bizos, describing him as a “remarkable human being”.
Moseneke worked with Bizos from the early 90s and they became close friends. At the time of Bizos's death last week, they were trustees of former president Nelson Mandela's estate.
Moseneke, delivering his tribute at the funeral service in Johannesburg, said it was in fact Mandela “who joined him with Bizos at the hip”.
The former judge praised Bizos for embracing SA's people, cultures and way of life, despite being of Greek descent.
To Moseneke's surprise, Bizos rocked up unannounced at his mother's 90th birthday celebration in Mabopane, “not in the middle of Sandton or some fancy place but in a village”.
“And there you were, hugging my mother to celebrate her 90th birthday, only two years ago,” said Moseneke. “You were a remarkable human being, you cared so much for others and I am deeply proud that I lived so close to your life.
Our profession will miss you. I hope all the young lawyers will draw and drink from that eternal fountain of high values.
“Our profession will miss you. I hope all the young lawyers will draw and drink from that eternal fountain of high values which I hope will remind all young people how it is to live fully, to live vigorously, to live with principles and to live well mainly for others.”
Moseneke remembered several cases he and Bizos had worked on together after Moseneke's release from prison, where he was incarcerated for fighting for freedom under apartheid. These included legal representation to the likes of Zwelakhe Sisulu, Thami Mkhwanazi and Ronnie Mamoepa, among others.
But what stood out for Moseneke was the defence he and Bizos mounted for Winnie Madikizela-Mandela in the Stompie Seipei case, instructed by Nelson Mandela.
“I had to live, and I did, with uncle George for six months as we defended comrade Nomzamo [Madikizela-Mandela],” said Moseneke.
Moseneke said he admired Bizos' courage to stand with the powerless and oppressed against the powerful, throughout apartheid. And because that principle was within him, he had continued to stand with the poor even in democratic SA, whose constitution he participated in drafting.
“He was there for the family of Steve Biko as they searched for circumstances of Bantu's murder in police custody and ... the Cradock Four who disappeared in police hands without trace,” said Moseneke.
“In the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, he stood with several victims of our inhumane apartheid system.
“As though he had not done enough, George Bizos was there for the families of the mineworkers who were killed in Marikana.”
He said Bizos was not interested in retiring because his was a lifetime commitment to the service of others.
“What stamina, what resilience, what steadfastness and what loyal commitment to justice, to freedom and to others with whom he had no ethnic or racial affiliation. He cared only because they too were human and he deeply hated inequality and unfairness — to his deathbed.”