Sunday, October 28, 2007

A truly great man

The guest on this morning's Desert Island Discs was Joel Joffe, a man who really merits the title "humanitarian." He has devoted his life to human rights issues as a lawyer, a business man and within charitable organisations such as Oxfam and International Alert. His curriculum vitae is impressive but his humility even more so. I found the interview, his choice of music and his observations on life both moving and inspiring.

Joel Joffe is perhaps best known for his work as a young defence lawyer in the troubled times in South Africa in the 1960s when he represented the group of ANC members, including Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu and Govan Mbeki in the infamous Rivonia trial. His achievement there was to save his clients from the death penalty, although this morning we heard him give all the credit to Nelson Mandela.

It isn't possible to listen to this programme online although it will be repeated on Radio 4 on Friday morning. You can see Baron Joffe's choice of music here. I'll post a version of Nkosi Sikelel’ Iafrika separately, my attempt to include it here failed.


  1. You're right, M. It was excellent and he's a remarkable man.

    When I was in Cape Town last year, I visited Robben Island, where Mandela and his fellow defendants spent so many years, in appalling conditions. Our guide had been a prisoner there at the same time and told his story quietly, with great dignity and with not a shred of bitterness. An experience that I will never forget.

  2. I know things are far from perfect in South Africa but Mandela's handling of the changeover of power was awe-inspiring. Every time I hear the SA national anthem with its combination of Xhosa and Afrikaans I get a lump in my throat. It might have been so very different.

  3. Yes, I know that lump in the throat feeling too. It is sad that none of South Africa's leaders since Mandela have had his wisdom or strength of character. Heartbreaking to think that his legacy is being squandered by the current government of the country he fought so hard to transform.

  4. The testing point will be when Mandela dies. I hope and pray that we don't get a blood bath then - maybe some strong character will emerge who has been afraid to show their strength in the shadow of the great man.


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