Tribute to Lord Joel Joffe

Tribute to Lord Joel Joffe

The Mike Campbell Foundation is deeply saddened by the passing of Lord Joel Joffe, a truly remarkable man whom we were honoured to have as one of our esteemed ambassadors. He was an exceptional, totally dedicated human rights lawyer who supported our human rights work and provided us with invaluable advice and encouragement.  We will miss him greatly.

Ben Freeth, our executive director, has paid him the following tribute:

One of the Ambassadors and great supporters of what the Mike Campbell Foundation is doing for justice died a few days ago. Lord Joel Joffe was the lawyer who, together with Sir Sydney Kentridge (whom he arranged for me to meet) and others, defended Nelson Mandela in the famous Rivonia trial (1963-64).  At the trial, Mr Mandela instructed that they put the South African government on trial, famously pleading “I am not guilty.  It is the government that should be on trial.”

Lord Joffe has been very supportive of our campaign to put the Zimbabwe government on trial.

He came to a speech I gave at the Royal Geographical Society in London and since then became a friend, taking me to his lovely home each time I was in the UK. He was an interesting and very gracious lawyer, businessman, Lord and Afrophile. 

The last time I saw him, which was late last year in the UK, he took us up the hill where he had an artist sculpting a giant elephant lumbering up the green and pleasant valley behind his beautiful manor house. I will always picture Lord Joffe gazing up the valley where the elephant stands today.

I will always picture Lord Joffe gazing up the valley where the elephant stands today.

Below is an obituary from Business Day in South Africa, where Lord Joffe was born, as well as links to obituaries in the UK:

Tributes paid to ‘iconic’ Joel Joffe

Business Day - AFP


21 June 2017

Tributes are pouring in for Joel Joffe, Nelson Mandela’s Rivonia trial attorney who became a British peer in exile and who has died at the age of 85.

Lord Joffe died on Sunday, said Oxfam, the aid agency that he chaired.

The Nelson Mandela Foundation said the human rights lawyer died in London.

Joffe was a member of Mandela’s defence team in the 1963-64 Rivonia Trial, which resulted in Mandela being given a life sentence for sabotage against the apartheid state.

After leaving for Britain, Joffe co-founded a large insurance group and later became a parliamentarian in Britain, spearheading the campaign for assisted dying for the terminally ill.

British anti-apartheid campaigner Peter Hain said Joffe was an "iconic figure" who never sought the limelight.

"He just supported everybody else," Hain said. He was "a totally generous person, warm, passionate and he continued to fly the flag for the anti-apartheid struggle and subsequently the new SA".

Joffe was born in Johannesburg on May 12 1932 and studied business and then law at the University of the Witwatersrand, graduating in 1955.

Mandela’s wife, Winnie, approached him to defend her husband in the Rivonia trial of ANC leaders.

In his autobiography, Mandela described Joffe’s role as that of "the general behind the scenes in our defence".

In a 2007 interview on BBC Radio, Joffe said: "For me, it was about saving the lives of these wonderful people.

"The nine members of the ANC were the finest people I had ever met — such courage, such integrity, so committed…. It was a great privilege to defend them," said Joffe. Following the trial, SA offered Joffe the option of leaving the country on condition that he never returned and he went into exile on an exit visa. Rejected by Australia, he moved to Britain in 1965.

Joffe co-founded what became the Allied Dunbar life assurance group in 1970.

This company was bought by Zurich in 1998. He was Oxfam chairman from 1995 to 2001.

"He was able to use his sharp legal mind and years of experience in business to challenge authority and increase the effectiveness of our work around the world," said Oxfam UK CEO Mark Goldring. "His fearless campaigning for care of the elderly, corporate responsibility and global development shaped the world for the better, yet he always maintained his trademark self-deprecating sense of humour," said Goldring.

Joffe was appointed a member of the House of Lords in Britain in 2000, sitting for the Labour Party.

He retired from the upper house in 2015 and was awarded the freedom of the City of London the next year.

In 2007, Joffe wrote a book about his apartheid experiences, The State vs Nelson Mandela: The trial that changed SA.

In its foreword, Mandela wrote that the book would serve as "one of the most reliable sources for understanding what happened at that trial  and how we came to live  and see democracy triumph in SA".