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21 ICONS: George Bizos



For 21 ICONS, staunch defender of human rights and advocate whose work in law has left an indelible mark on South Africa, George Bizos tells photographer and filmmaker Adrian Steirn about his remarkable life and the process that went into the drafting of the South African constitution.


In a career spanning more than fifty years, Bizos has used the law in an exemplary manner to protect people from the abuse of state power. His most famous client – and close personal friend – has been Nelson Mandela, whom he helped to escape a death sentence on charges of treason during the Rivonia Trial in the early 1960s.


Steirn says, “The intention for me with the portrait was to show George Bizos as the dignified man that he is, and holding the three words that changed South Africa’s history. It’s a mesmerizing portrait. The words are direct, the words are clear, and the words are very simple. It’s the message of a man who stood for what he believed.”


Bizos has worked on a several of South Africa’s most defining documents: the Freedom Charter, the Bill of Rights and the Constitution. He was also involved in the drafting of laws that led to the establishment of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, where he led the team that opposed amnesty applications on behalf of the Biko, Hani, Goniwe and Slovo families, among others. Mandela then appointed him to the Judicial Service Commission, on which he served for 15 years to transform a democratic South Africa’s judiciary.


The original photograph, signed by Bizos, will be auctioned at the end of the series and the proceeds donated to the scholarship and bursary fund of the South African Hellenic Educational and Technical Institute (Saheti), a school in Johannesburg that was founded under Bizos’s leadership in 1974. The fund supports pupils of outstanding ability who are in financial need and gives them the opportunity to receive an outstanding education in a modern, multi-ethnic and non-elitist environment.


Over 21 weeks black and white portraits of 21 South African heroes will be shared as collectable posters in the Sunday Times newspaper, and the accompanying short films will air on SABC3 at 6.57pm, just before the 7pm news. Fans can follow the series online through the digital campaign launched by Quirk Joburg on Facebook, on Twitter or at, where you can find icon profiles and behind the scenes images uploaded weekly. Or you can catch up here every Monday.


21 ICONS South Africa is proudly sponsored by Mercedes-Benz South Africa, Nikon, Deloitte, The Sunday Times, SABC3 and the Department of Arts and Culture. Additional credits go to content-creation company Ginkgo Agency.









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