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Lord Joel Joffe (1932 - )

The Order of the Companions of O.R. Tambo in

Lord Joel Joffe (1932 - ) Awarded for:
His excellent contribution to the struggle against racial oppression in South Africa.

Profile of Lord Joel Joffe

Lord Joel Joffe was born in South Africa in 1932 and was educated at the University of the Witwatersrand, obtaining a BCom and an LLB degree in 1955. He worked as a human-rights lawyer from 1958 to 1965, including at the infamous 1963-64 Rivonia Trial, representing Nelson Mandela and his co-accused.

On 11 July 1963, police raided Lilliesleaf farm at Rivonia near Johannesburg, arresting members of the high command of Umkhonto we Sizwe. Together with the already imprisoned Mandela, they were put on trial, charged with conspiring to overthrow the apartheid government by armed revolution. Their expected punishment was death.

In “The State vs. Nelson Mandela”, Joffe was their defence attorney in what was clearly the most important trial in South Africa’s history, enabling him to expose the astonishing bigotry and rampant discrimination faced by the accused as well as showing their courage under fire.

He therefore stood as an astute human-rights lawyer in the war on apartheid and in the struggle for justice and human rights. Lord Joffe left South Africa on an exit permit in 1965 after his passport had been confiscated. He continued to support South African causes, and in 2000 became a member of the British House of Lords. He became a champion of tertiary education for extremely disadvantaged South African children through the Community and Individual Development Association (Cida) United Kingdom Foun­dation that supports the Cida City Campus in Johannesburg.