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The law is about justice

- By Wits University

Wits University this afternoon awarded Bram Fischer with a posthumous Honorary Doctorate of Laws. In the Bram Fischer Citation presented by the Wits School of Law, Fischer is hailed as a “warm, kind and generous man who inspired love and admiration even among those who did not share his political beliefs”.

His daughter Ruth Rice received the doctorate on behalf of her father during a graduation ceremony for Faculty of Commerce, Law and Management.

In addressing the law graduates, Lord Joel Joffe paid tribute to his former co-council in the Rivonia Trial defence team, saying one of the many things he had learned from Fischer, is that “law is about justice, which appears often to be overlooked by some lawyers in running their practices. Inherent in the honourable profession of law, should surely be a commitment to justice, and to use the law to achieve justice, both for those who can afford to pay, and for those who cannot.”

He added: “South Africa is blessed with having the best Constitution in the world protecting a wide range of human rights, not only economic but also social.  This opens up opportunities for lawyers to undertake work which will be to the benefit of society as a whole, as well to their own clients.”

Fischer is highly respected in the Struggle and commented for the role he played. Joffe said that Steve Biko, leader of the Black Conscious Movement, stated “that he had one hero among whites and that was Bram”. 

And Nelson Mandela said of him: “As an Afrikaner whose conscience forced him to reject his own heritage and be ostracised by his own people, he showed a level of courage and sacrifice that was a class by itself.  No matter what I suffered in my pursuit of freedom, I always took strength from the fact that I was fighting with and for my own people.  Bram was a free man who fought against his own people to ensure the freedom of others”.

Earlier in the day, Wits also honoured Fischer, the “Afrikaner revolutionary” and leading advocate who defended Nelson Mandela and others in the Rivonia Trial, during a historic colloquium in the Great Hall. This is all part of a weeklong #MrBlack Week celebration.