Two highly respected struggle stalwarts – top human rights lawyer George Bizos and Rivonia trialist Andrew Mlangeni – were on Wednesday April 20 given the Freedom of Johannesburg.
They were bestowed with the Freeman of the City award, the City of Johannesburg’s highest civilian honour, by Executive Mayor Councillor Parks Tau at the Walter Sisulu Hall in Malanshof, Randburg.
Mlangeni was, however, not present to receive the award as he has been admitted to hospital. His son, Sello, accepted it on his behalf.
Present at the special council meeting to bestow the Category A award to the two struggle icons were Speaker of Council Councillor Constance Bapela. high-profile politicians and councillors, previous recipients of the award such Ahmed Kathrada and Sophie Williams de Bruin, as well as Public Protector Thuli Madonsela, Deputy Public Protector Kevin Malunga and Ombudsman Siduduzo Gumede.
Mayor Tau commended both Mlangeni and Bizos on their principled stand against inequality and injustice, especially during the Rivonia Trial – “one as a defendant, the other as a member of the defending legal team”.
“We bestow this honour, not only in recognition of their being among those who made that noble, supremely principled stand at Madiba’s side, confronting the logic of a deeply illegitimate system with profoundly democratic clarity and eloquence – risking the death penalty and persecution to do it.
“We also honour the service they gave – and continue to give – to the very democracy they helped lead the struggle to create. And, through them, we honour the values enshrined in our constitutional order, the great refutation of the system our honourees gave their freedom – and risked their lives – to bring down,” said Mayor Tau.
He said the recognition needed to be matched with positive action.
“To truly honour the recognition we bestow today, to truly consecrate their status as freeman of this City, we must commit as we confer the status of Freeman that we will redouble our fight against the consequences of the system they helped bring down.
“Ntate Mlangeni and Ntate Bizos are men who have fought consistently for freedom and equality, and our great city is proud to recognise their lifelong commitment to these values. We hope, without arrogance or presumption, to follow them in the path they have opened for us, and to commit ourselves to working for personal and social freedom as they have done so outstandingly. As a city and a nation we look up to you, men of principle guided by truth, justice and honesty. We recommit ourselves to emulating you, confronting the challenges of our own day in the spirit of the towering example that you have set for us,” said Tau.
Bizos said he was extremely proud of the honour.
“I accept this honour with pride and take heed that this bestowment is an honour representing the dedication and sacrifices made by all in the fight for freedom,” said Bizos.
Sello Mlangeni said that on behalf of his father, he was deeply touched by the bestowal.
“My father wishes to extend his deepest thanks for this award and the recognition it brings for each and every one of those brave individuals who were prepared to sacrifice for the betterment of life for all,” he said.
Since 1996, the City has bestowed the award on Walter Sisulu, President Nelson Mandela, Joe Slovo, Dr Beyers Naude, Lillian Ngoyi, Helen Joseph and Rahima Moosa.