21/06/2017 07:18 SAST | Updated 21/06/2017 07:18 SAST

Kathrada Foundation Pays Tribute To Mandela's Lawyer, Joel Joffe

Joffe died at the age of 85 in London on Sunday.

Ian Gavan via Getty Images
LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 04: Artist David Maiden and Lord Joel Joffe pose next to his portrait at the Royal Society of Portrait Painters Photocall at the Mall Galleries on May 4, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Ian Gavan/Getty Images)

Anti-apartheid lawyer and one of the lawyers who defended Nelson Mandela and his fellow Rivonia trialists, Joel Joffe, has died. Joffe reportedly died on Sunday at the age of 85.

Mandela described Joffe as being "the general behind the scenes in our defence" in his autobiography.

The Ahmed Kathrada Foundation paid tribute to Joffe in a statement released on Tuesday, The Times reported on Wednesday.

Executive director of the foundation, Neeshan Balton, said:

"Joffe is amongst a class of defence attorneys who served South Africa and our liberation struggle with distinction. Joffe was the defence attorney of two Robben Islanders who have served on the Foundation's board‚ Kathrada and Laloo Chiba.

"It took a great deal of bravery and conviction to defend anti-apartheid activists in the 1960s‚ at a time when Mandela‚ Sisulu‚ Kathrada and others were regarded as 'terrorists' by the state. Lawyers such as Joffe‚ Arthur Chaskalson‚ Bram Fischer‚ George Bizos‚ Vernon Barrange‚ and others‚ have made an immense contribution."

The last time Kathrada and Joffe met was in 2016 when they both received the Freedom of the City of London award, together with other Rivonia trialists, Denis Goldberg and Andrew Mlangeni.

Mandela was given a life sentence for sabotage against the state during the Rivonia trial, in 1964.

According to The Times, Joffe left for Britain shortly afterwards and founded an insurance firm, before becoming a member of Parliament who fought for assisted dying for the terminally ill.

Peter Hain, anti-apartheid campaigner in Britain said Joffe was "a totally generous person, warm, passionate, and he continued to fly the flag for the anti-apartheid struggle and subsequently the new South Africa.".

In an interview with BBC radio in 2007, Joffe reportedly said:

"The nine members of the ANC were the finest people I had ever met — such courage, such integrity, so committed... It was a great privilege to defend them."