Joel Joffe (1932-2017)

SOFII is saddened to learn of the passing of humanitarian giant and SOFII supporter Joel Joffe

Added by
Joe Burnett
June 22, 2017

We are sad to announce that Lord Joel Joffe CBE, famous for being the lawyer who defended Nelson Mandela, has died aged 85. Born in Johannesburg, Lord Joffe was a young lawyer with a passion for justice and a desire to help those less fortunate than himself when in 1963 he was asked to defend Nelson Mandela and eight other members of the African National Congress (ANC) at the infamous Rivonia Trial. In the febrile atmosphere of apartheid South Africa (the tragic Sharpeville Massacre in which 69 unarmed protestors had been killed by police had occurred only three years earlier) when other white South Africans involved in civil rights were forced into exile, Joel Joffe didn't hesitate and would always reiterate the honour it was for him to defend these nine great men. After the trial, he was himself forced to leave South Africa for the UK.

In the UK, Lord Joffe would found the insurance firm Allied Dunbar and became a committed supporter -and later Chair- of Oxfam. He also set up the Per Cent Club to encourage wealthy individuals and companies to engage in philanthropic activities.His business knowledge meant that he was determined to make Oxfam as efficient as it was passionate. 'Passion and good intentions by themselves are no value to anyone without effective implementation,' he said.

In 2007, SOFII founder Ken Burnett, who had first met Lord Joffe as a rather green chair of trustees of ActionAid while the latter was the established chair of Oxfam, approached him to get his advice on setting up an online repository of great fundraising content. Despite feeling that SOFII didn't come under the remit of the Joffe Trust, his lordship was very supportive and offered a lot of advice. However, as Ken relates it, 'on Boxing Day, December 26th Lord Joffe called me at home to say he’d been thinking about it, loved the idea and wanted to give SOFII a single ‘start-up’ gift of £25,000, with the sole stipulation that we put in place a plan to become financially self-sufficient. We did just that. Without this catalytic investment SOFII may well not have survived the leap from dream to reality.'

Lord Joffe's remarkable life and career make him an inspiration for us all at SOFII and we'd like to take this opportunity to thank him, his family and the Joffe Trust for their support, without which SOFII possibly wouldn't be here today.

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About the author: Joe Burnett

Joe Burnett is Contributing Editor for SOFII.

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