16/11/2017 11:14 SAST | Updated 16/11/2017 11:38 SAST

Happy Birthday George Bizos: Doing Your Bit For Democracy

Did you wish George Bizos a happy 90th? Here are four good reasons why you should...

GULSHAN KHAN via Getty Images
George Bizos, anti-apartheid activist and Rivonia treason trial defence lawyer, attends a memorial service in honour of anti-apartheid stalwart Ahmed Kathrada.

There's no doubt George Bizos is gutsy and strong: a white man from Greece to seeking refuge during World War II, who became part of South Africa's moral compass.

It was his 90th birthday yesterday, and here are four reasons to wish him many more:

1. The Anti-Apartheid Lawyer

Bizos arrived in South Africa from Greece as a World War II refugee, and later studied law at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits). He then thrust himself into human rights issues, supporting the liberation movements fighting the injustices of the apartheid regime.

He went on to represent ANC struggle heroes Walter Sisulu and Nelson Mandela, among others, at both the 1956-61 treason trial, at which they were declared not guilty, and the "Rivonia" treason trial from 1963-64, which resulted in Mandela and Sisulu's long incarceration on Robben Island.

The struggle stalwart has written three books, including "65 Years Of Friendship", in which he tells the story of the relationship he shared with Mandela.

Former South African president Nelson Mandela (R) walks past George Bizos, his lifelong friend as he leaves the media briefing after his acceptance of the historical collections from the National Archives at the Mandela foundation in Houghton.

2. The Voice Of The Victim

Bizos represented families of assassinated struggle heroes Steve Bantu Biko, Chris Hani and the Cradock Four during the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). In the commission's deliberations, his legal expertise and arguments were instrumental in blocking amnesty applications made by the perpetrators of these murders.

3. The International Inspiration

Bizos has received tremendous recognition worldwide for his stellar legal and human-rights career. His accolades include the International Bar Association's prestigious Bernard Simons Memorial Award, and the annual Sydney and Felicia Kentridge Award presented by South Africa's General Council of the Bar. In 1999, he received the Order for Meritorious Service Class II medal, presented in person by his old friend, then-President Nelson Mandela.

PA Archive/PA Images
George Bizos talks to school pupils after he received the Freedom of the City of London award, in recognition of their fight for freedom and racial equality.

4. The History Corrector

Recently, Bizos was involved in the team that secured justice for the family of another struggle icon, Ahmed Timol.

Timol was murdered in custody by apartheid Security Police in 1971, but his death was covered up and ruled a suicide by apartheid authorities, despite evidence to the contrary.

It took 46 years, but earlier this year Bizos and his team managed to overturn that ruling in a new inquest. The record now reflects that that Timol was, in fact, tortured and beaten to death by his interrogators.