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Tribute to Lord Joel Joffe

- Lee-Anne Bruce

CALS mourns the loss of one of our friends and patrons Lord Joel Joffe who passed away on 19 June 2017. Lord Joffe worked as a human rights lawyer from 1958 – 1965. In this time, he represented Nelson Mandela and other leaders of the ANC during the infamous Rivonia Trial. Lord Joffe worked tirelessly to defend those charged with conspiring to overthrow the apartheid government by armed revolution. The State v Nelson Mandela is considered one of the most important cases in our history, where the bigotry of the apartheid system was exposed.

Following his role in defending anti-apartheid activists, Lord Joffe was exiled to the UK. Throughout his life he continued to support South African causes and was awarded the Gold Order of the Baobab in 2010. He has promoted a miscellany of causes, including access to education for disadvantaged young people; anti-corruption work; women’s reproductive rights; the rights of the elderly and the right to die. He administered the Bram Fischer Fund, which has, among other things, helped to support our own internship programme. This programme funds interns from South Africa, the continent and the Global South to gain experience working at a human rights organisation. Because of these funds, we have managed to put over 25 young women and men through our programme, almost all of whom are working in the Global South in the social justice sector.

In his last visit to South Africa, he came to spend some time with us at CALS. He energised us and gave us his time, attention and mentorship, which was a most precious gift. We remain deeply saddened by his loss and and wish his family, friends, colleagues and comrades strength during this difficult time.