Human rights lawyer George Bizos. File photo: Antoine de Ras
Human rights lawyer George Bizos. File photo: Antoine de Ras

Advocate Mahlodi Muofhe: A tribute to my ’uncle’ George Bizos

By Opinion Time of article published Sep 12, 2020

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Johannesburg - Θείε Γιώργο Μπίζο, αιωνία σου η μνήμη. Αγωνίστηκες σε έναν

μακρύ μαραθώνιο για τα θεμελιώδη ανθρώπινα

δικαιώματα. Κατόρθωσες να υλοποιήσεις τον σκοπό σου, τη

δημιουργία μίας δημοκρατικής Νότιας Αφρικής.

Uncle George, that’s how you preferred me to call you. You at all material times reproved when I addressed you as Adv George Bizos.

You took silk I thought you would be happy at that time; when attempting my luck and called you Adv George Bizos SC iyo the rebuke was harder than I anticipated.

Our relationship thus remained one of you being my ‘ uncle ‘ and me your ‘ son ‘. It continued that way until you, the late Andimba Toivo ya Toivo, may his soul rest in peace and I met together under one roof.

I remember that day when you and Andimba sparred against each other. I will explain the cause of that litigation hereunder in the body of my tribute.

Rashaka and Toivo; my children with my late wife Thembi; may her soul rest in eternal peace; knew you well.

The reason behind all three ( Thembi; Rashaka and Toivo ) got to be part of the Saheti School family; is you.

You directed Thembi and I and I so say because you gave us no option that Rashaka and Toivo had to be enrolled at Saheti a Greek School you founded.

Socialization; cohesion and racial integration where the colour of one’s pigmentation played no role became real then.

Thembi ended up joining Saheti as an educator. Talk of capture. I felt so discriminated against in that my nuclear family knew how to speak Greek and me? To date my Greek remains stagnant at ‘kalimera’.

My granddaughter Toivo Junior named after her aunt; Toivo; now in Grade 5; at Saheti; keeps on promising that she will teach me Greek.

Hopefully this eventuality will be realized sooner than later before she assumes a life of her own. I am yearning to learn how to converse in Greek like them too.

This short narration seeks to contextualize the sparring match you and Andimba Toivo ya Toivo had; that evening when we met.

Thembi and I named our daughter Toivo after Andimba ya Toivo.

On the day we all met; she ( Toivo ) was there.

Andimba called her ( Toivo ) not by name to him; she was his younger sister.

Like uncle George Bizos; Andimba; old enough; let alone the fact that Thembi and I; named our daughter after him ( Andimba) because he was our struggle hero for freedom albeit him having fought for the liberation of Namibia; to be our (Thembi and I) father; admonished us when we addressed him (Andimba) as dad.

To him the converse applied. He called me ‘ dad ‘ and Thembi’ mom ‘.

Imagine the difficulty we endured in having to call Andimba Toivo ya Toivo; our ‘ son ‘ because he was Toivo’s ‘ eldest brother’.

The sparring match; or shall I say; the oral litigation between my ‘son‘ Andimba and my ‘uncle‘ George Bizos on that day; papers (legal jargon) of which remained unsettled ever since, hinged on who knew me first, as if my being mattered any more better than theirs which by the by didn’t, and in my book, will never get any nearer to theirs. Both of them were; and remain my heroes in all respects. I am sure their ( my ‘son’ Andimba Toivo ya Toivo and my ‘ uncle ‘ George Bizos ) first meeting; now that ‘uncle’ George Bizos has just entered the ancestral village; will be about how they would re-enrol their litigation which was postponed sine die.

I pity the presiding officer who will hear their heads of argument. It is a mess of a matter in that between the two of them facts and the merits about who knows me better between them even if they speak for themselves will not matter.

Before my own papers are deemed to be improper since I haven’t as yet disclosed how ‘ uncle ‘ Bizos and I met; let me submit now.

I met ‘uncle ‘ George Bizos very early in my life as a young struggle activist.

During that period; ‘uncle ‘ George Bizos as a human rights lawyer of note; was the hideout person we all sought refuge from when the Apartheid Special Branch officers sought to eliminate us from the face of the earth in whichever way they deemed fit.

I got to know him during that difficult period. It so ironic that today I head the Domestic Branch of the State Security Branch.

Thank God, I do so serving our democratic government where the rule of law is adhered to and our Constitution with a chapter of fundamental rights entrenched in; is the supreme law of country.

My relationship with ‘ Uncle‘ George Bizos became more frequent.

I worked for Shun Chetty Attorneys, a firm which represented many political struggle activists who fought hard for us to achieve our democratic freedom today.

The firm briefed ’uncle‘ George Bizos a lot and briefs you his chambers at the Innes Chambers; downtown Johannesburg on Pritchard Street; were often delivered by me.

Dare I open up today and state ‘ uncle‘ George Bizos is among the few human rights legal practitioners of that time; who influenced me to get into the legal profession.

From ‘ uncle ‘ George Bizos and my ‘son‘ Andimba Toivo ya Toivo; I learnt a lot.

Humility and integrity are non-negotiable essentialia seeds in their DNA. They both abhor public representatives and public servants who pillage limited state resources earmarked to benefit and better the lives of downtrodden vulnerable citizens especially, in our country Mzansi.

When Madiba slept away to eternity, Andimba Toivo ya Toivo’s dad and mom together with Andimba’ sister attended the funeral in Qunu in the Eastern Cape Province.

Andimba insisted that, instead of flying down to the EC Province for the funeral; mode of transport to be used, should be my car.

No matter how hard dad and mom tried to convince him that Qunu was so far away, we failed.

So we hit the road. His reason for driving was that he wanted to see his South Africa.

Yes. That objective was achieved. All the way to Qunu, Andimba complained about corruption by public representatives and public servants.

Of course he acknowledged that there are some public representatives and public servants who are clean.

His sister, Toivo and his ‘ dad ‘were and still; are public servants.

He couldn’t paint them by the same brush.

Uncle George Bizos; never missed any school function at Saheti.

So we would meet almost all the time at these functions.

He too wouldn’t miss an opportunity to complain to me about the endemic corruption not only in government and state owned enterprises or entities but equally so also in the private sector.

Uncle George Bizos, I knew that you had advanced in age and unwell. I had hoped that I will see you at the annual Saheti functions this year. It was not to be. You had signed off your last brief and on this one; you don’t want your fees to be paid by us, your clients.

It is an open brief you signed off. All you want from us is that we implement what is contained inside your signed off brief. It is a short concise brief and easy to implement if we are to honour your legacy and let you sleep peacefully.

We must restore good governance both in government and in the corporate sector.

We must get rid of corruption so that material resources reach the intended recipients: Poor vulnerable people.

Rest in Eternal Peace Uncle George Bizos. You were our shining torch which is now switched off.

It is in our hands to serve our community with distinction if we are to live up to your wish.


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