I met George Bizos today. As my car inched its way into the basement of the building that houses his offices, Braam Fischer House, I played the rehearsed meeting over and over in my mind. My readings told me all I needed to know about the encounter I was about to make: the man needs very little introduction as the human rights lawyer of the apartheid struggle along with an incredible string of accolade that rolls off a tape measure of milestones and accomplishments. But I still didn't know, or have an idea of the man I was about to meet. Or the reception that awaited me.
Who is George Bizos? A Google search will tell you much of what you need to know... WhosWho@24.com. A face to face encounter will allow you to search the eyes of a kind soul, to see into the light of a gentleman of the world. I was at ease as he began his chat, informally, by his own admission, in an office walled with leather bound journals and archives of his professional nurturing. I asked about his work, his influence and his life. I got asked about my own. He spoke animatedly about Greek food, the Ottoman Empire and the apartheid struggle; he stood counsel on numerous cases concerning the Group Areas Act, as well as the infamous Rivonia Trial (under which Mandela and Sisulu and a host of others were tried for treason) and the Delmas Trial (under which e.g. Terror Lekota was tried).
Bizos at almost 81 is of fine memory and incredible spirit. His words deliberate, eyes twinkle with merriment as the stories from the past reveal themselves first to him, and then to me. I am mesmerized by the sheer energy of light that emanates as he speaks of past and present; digging memories of significant trials and tactics of the freedom struggle, and of his contemporaries, especially the protagonist of my biography, Maulvi IA Cachalia. He was a 'tactician', he repeated after each rendering of one or two examples of particular trials that they discussed and managed around the unjust legalities of the time.
Of course, as we moved on to talking about baclava, chai (my favourite; Bizos prefers kahve) and biryani (apparently the Greek word for it is very similar), appetites and memories were enticed to an anecdote about samoosa's in the Heidelberg trial, another example of the Group Area's Act tug-of-war.
The scribbling and doodling of his fountain pen (in Greek letters nonetheless) still follow my mind as he chatted with that shiny gleam in his eye. I can see the sparkle of eye mirrored in smile, still. I doodle too. It jogs memory and muse. The interview transcript will reveal all the technical details ('The machine must tell the story' - Bizos) for later analysis. For now I am basking in the measure of a morning spent on the ninth floor of a city centre office in Johannesburg, with a man who is most certainly an institution in his own right.
Books By George Bizos: No One To Blame? - In Pursuit Of Justice In South Africa (1998); and Odyssey to Freedom (2007)
Local Council By-Elections April 2017
5 hours ago