The Greek Who Saved Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela and George Bizos

George Bizos, the Greek lawyer and good friend of Nelson Mandela, during a past visit to Athens had reveled details of  his life and his relationship with Mandela.

Bizos, was born in 1928 in the village Vasilitsi, in Messinia. In 1941, at just 13 years old, he was forced to abandon his home during the German occupation of World War 2. He then immigrated to Johannesburg, South Africa, penniless and didn’t speak any English. After he found a job, he stayed there without seeing his family for 20 years.

His life was full of difficulties, but he had the chance to meet and collaborate with a legendary man, Nelson Mandela. The two men met in 1948 at the university where Mandela gave daily lectures on human rights. Mandela was 10 years older than Bizos and was helping him make a living by assigning him cases. As Bizos said, they became friends in the courts.

They became inseparable during the notorious trial of Rivonia in 1963-1964, while Bizos was in the group of lawyers that defended Mandela and his comrades. Bizos was among the men who saved Mandela from a death sentence. Originally the death penalty had been requested, but changed due to world-wide protests and the skilled legal maneuvers of the defence team. Mandela was sentenced to 28 years in prison.


Mandela was never afraid to die for what he believed in. However, George Bizos urged him not to provoke the judges: “I ​​consulted him to say, that he was hoping to live and realize his ideals and that if needed, he was ready to die. We agreed on this.” said Bizos.

Bizos, whenever speaking of Mandela is overcome with emotion. Mandela always told him that it is easier to love people and that no one is born to be a racist. He never abandoned his people nor did he consider himself as a savior; he considered himself a faithful servant of both native and white people.

George Bizos visits Greece often. He believes that in the past, Greek people have been through far more difficult situations and that the country can find a way to deal with the crisis.