Personal tribute to uncle George Bizos


UNCLE George, that’s how you preferred me to call you.

You, at all material times, reproved when I addressed you as Advocate George Bizos. You took silk; I thought you would be happy at that time, when attempting my luck and called you, Advocate 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 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 later.                    

Rashaka and Toivo, my children with my late wife Thembi 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 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. On the day we all met, Toivo was there. Andimba did not refer to Toivo by name. To him, she was his younger sister. Thembi and I named our daughter after him because he was our struggle hero for freedom, despite the fact that he fought for the liberation of Namibia. Andimba was old enough to be our father but admonished us when we addressed him 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, hinged on who knew me first, as if my being, mattered any more better than theirs, which by the by, didn’t. In my book, my being will never get any nearer to theirs. Both of them were, and remain my heroes in all respects. 

I am sure the first meeting of Andimba and Uncle George, now that Uncle George 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 George and I met, let me submit now. I met Uncle George very early in my life as a young struggle activist. During that period,  Uncle George, 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 is 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 the country.

My relationship with Uncle George 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 a lot and I delivered the briefs at his chambers at the Innes Chambers, downtown Johannesburg on Pritchard Street. This exercise was significant for me because Uncle George is among the few human rights legal practitioners of that time,who influenced me to get into the legal profession.              

From Uncle George and 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 came to South Africa to attend the funeral in Qunu, in the Eastern Cape. Andimba insisted that; instead of flying down to the Eastern Cape for the funeral, we should drive from Johannesburg in my car. No matter how hard we 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 country, 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. 

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 would 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. 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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