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#MrBlack Week

- By Wits University



This year marks 40 years since Bram (“Mr Black”) Fischer died in 1975 shortly after being released from prison on "humanitarian" grounds after serving a life sentence for furthering the aims of communism and conspiracy to overthrow the apartheid government. It is also 50 years since his arrest for these crimes in 1965.

During #MrBlack Week (23 – 26 March 2015), Wits University will be honouring the leading Afrikaner advocate who defended anti-apartheid activists in both the Treason and Rivonia trials, with a historic Colloquium and will also award him a posthumous Honorary Doctorate of Laws.

At the 1963 – 64 Rivonia Trial Fischer led the most brilliant legal team ever assembled in South Africa – Advocate George Bizos, Lord Joel Joffe, the late Chief Justice Arthur Chaskalson and Vernon Berange QC. Bizos, Joffe and Chaskalson are Wits alumni.

The Bram Fischer Colloquium will be a rare opportunity to hear Bizos and Joffe, and their former clients Ahmed Kathrada, Andrew Mlangeni and Denis Goldberg pay tribute to the leader of their defence team.

The panel will also include Max Sisulu (son of Walter Sisulu) and Fischer’s daughters, Ilse Wilson and Ruth Rice, as well as others from the 1956 – 61 Treason Trial in whose defence Fischer also played a key role.

The Colloquium will take place at 10:00 on Thursday, 26 March 2015, in the Wits Great Hall, Braamfontein Campus East. All welcome! 

The event can be viewed live online from 10:00 via

The Wits Law Students Council is also hosting an exhibition, titled:, and will be screening DVD on Fischer's life. 

Later in the day, Fischer’s daughters will receive an honorary doctorate on his behalf at a graduation ceremony. Joffe will deliver the citation. (Please note entry to a graduation ceremony is for ticket holders only.)

Fischer walked the corridors of this University – a beacon of multi-racial equality – for a brief period in the mid-1930s as a part-time lecturer in the Wits School of Law. He occupies a unique place in the anti-apartheid struggle and many, including Nelson Mandela, have credited his defence of the Rivonia trialists as having saved the lives of the former president and other senior ANC leaders from the gallows.

  • In 1965 Fischer used the surname “Black” as his pseudonym when he went underground for nine months before he was arrested on charges relating to sabotage. Witnesses later referred to “Mr Black” in their statements to the security police and during his trial.


An honorary Doctor of Laws will be awarded posthumously to Bram Fischer at a graduation ceremony this week.