AmaBookaBooka: The Extraordinary Life of Bram Fischer – the Scarlet Pimpernel


    Bram Fischer was extraordinarily
    extraordinary. Born on 23 April 1908, he came from a powerful
    Afrikaner family – his grandfather was Prime Minister of the
    Orange Free State and his father was judge president. If he had
    followed the orthodox political route, he might have become
    prime minister of South Africa. Instead, he fought apartheid
    and became a communist. To the establishment he was the worst
    kind of traitor. But to the oppressed – Bram Fischer was a

    This episode was recorded at Liliesleaf farm
    – which is where many of the Rivonia Treason Trialists were
    arrested in a police raid in 1963. Bram defended the treason
    trialists. He could easily have been one of

    After the Rivonia Trial the apartheid state
    turned its attention to Bram. For 11 months he lived
    underground, and became known as the Scarlet Pimpernel. When
    arrested, he was subjected to months of solitary confinement
    before being brought to trial.

    In May 1966 Bram – a distinguished lawyer –
    was sentenced to life imprisonment on a charge of sabotage. He
    did on 8 May 1975.

    Championing Bram is Lord Joel Joffe, a human
    rights lawyer, who moved to the United Kingdom and worked in
    the financial services industry and in the voluntary sector.
    Lord Joffe, who pursues a range of charitable activities as
    chair of the Joffe Charitable Trust, was on the legal team that
    defended the Rivonia Trialists in 1964 and he talks about Bram,
    whom he describes as his hero.

    Joining in the conversation is Bram’s
    daughter Ilse Wilson, who reveals a different side to Bram
    Fischer – Bram, the father, who talked loudly and embarrassed
    her and her sister, by arriving at school in his khaki “Boer”

    Ilse and Joel talk about Bram’s
    life and his legacy.


    Photo: Bram