Subsequently, he acted for the ANC at the post-1994 constitutional hearings, and is on the staff of the Legal Resources Centre.
His new book, 65 Years of Friendship is the heart-warming and often heart-rending story of his friendship with Nelson Mandela.
Bizos and Mandela met as law students at the University of the Witwatersrand in the 1940s. They remained good friends and colleagues until Mandela died in December 2013.
Any friendship that endured for 65 years would be rich in anecdotes. But the friendship between two extraordinary men, whose life work affected the lives of all South Africans, delivers so much more.
65 Years of Friendship is a magnificent personal account of this relationship. Bizos also offers historical background to give context.
Mandela became Bizos’s most famous client, forming part of his legal defence during the Treason Trial and again during the Rivonia Trial.
After seeing his friend sentenced to life imprisonment, Bizos became Mandela’s aide, often navigating complicated networks of the Struggle on his behalf.
Working persistently, be it by secretly meeting Oliver Tambo in exile or arguing for the abolishment of the death penalty in the Constitutional Court years later, Bizos offered his unwavering support to Mandela and his fight for a democratic South Africa.
In Bizos’s own words: “This is my story of our friendship as I remember it. My friend and colleague, Arthur Chaskalson, the former chief justice, once said of me: George has such a good memory that he even remembers things that did not happen.”
“I will not take it as far as that, but recognise that there are things that I have forgotten, perhaps even some that I have muddled, and for that I apologise in advance. This is a short book about a long friendship.”
Bizos lost four close friends over a short time: Mandela, Arthur Chaskalson, Nadine Gordimer and Jules Browde. He shared his feelings while chatting to Graça Machel, saying he dreamt that the bell might soon toll for him.
Her reply: “Stop thinking about the bell tolling for you and think what your dear friends would want you to continue doing.”
Bizos told her that he was trying.
65 Years of Friendship may be “a short book” but it is an absolutely delightful, witty, insightful, revealing and informative read. I savoured every page.