Ahmed Kathrada Foundation sends condolences on the passing of Lord Joel Joffe

The Ahmed Kathrada Foundation extended its condolences to the family and friends of anti-apartheid lawyer, Lord Joel Joffe, and writes:

Joffe, a defense attorney in both the Rivonia and Little Rivonia Trials, passed away in London on 18 June.
He was among a class of defense attorneys who served South Africa and our liberation struggle with distinction.

Joffe was the defense attorney of two Robben Islanders who served on the foundation’s board, Ahmed Kathrada and Laloo Chiba. It took a great deal of bravery and conviction to defend anti-apartheid activists in the 60s, 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.

Kathrada in his memoirs referred to Joffe’s own assessment of the Rivonia Trial, and notes that Joffe was ‘inspired’ by Walter Sisulu’s composure in the witness box as he was grilled by State Prosecutor, Percy Yutar.

READ: Remembering Ahmed Kathrada and the Rivonia trial

Joffe is quoted as saying, “Dr Yutar had tried to take on Walter in the political arena and Walter had just destroyed him. I have never in my experience as a lawyer seen a witness perform better under extreme pressure. The whole court I think had been impressed by this simple man of meagre education but of tremendous sincerity, calm, conviction and certainty.”

The last time Kathrada met Joffe was last year when they both received the Freedom of the City of London along with surviving Rivonia trialists, Andrew Mlangeni and Denis Goldberg, as well as remaining Rivonia defense attorney, George Bizos.

Joffe also recently contributed a written piece for Kathrada’s book on his Robben Island visits, Triumph of the Human Spirit. Kathrada had taken Joffe and his wife Vanetta in 1995 to Robben Island for a tour – one that left Joffe with a renewed sense of ‘how fortunate South Africa was to have leaders on Robben Island with such courage, integrity, vision and solidarity’.

We must remember though, that it was because of the services rendered by lawyers such as Joffe, that these leaders were spared the death sentence and as history shows, would subsequently shape democratic South Africa.


What are your thoughts on the passing of Lord Joel Joffe? Share your stories with us on the Sandton Chronicle Facebook page.


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