Andrew Williamson obituary

Other Lives: Anti-apartheid lawyer who left South Africa and became an employment specialist in the UK

My friend Andrew Williamson, who has died aged 78, took part as a lawyer in several key anti-apartheid trials in South Africa and later established himself as an employment law specialist in the UK.

In South Africa, Andrew represented the author and activist Breyten Breytenbach in his 1975 trial under the draconian Terrorism Act. Breytenbach was sentenced to nine years in prison – but escaped the death penalty - for seeking to launch a white wing of the outlawed African National Congress.

Andrew was also instructing solicitor to the barrister Sir Sydney Kentridge in several other apartheid-related cases, and the two of them maintained a close friendship after they both moved to the UK in the late 1970s.

Andrew was born in Johannesburg, to Arthur, an appeal court judge, and his wife, Erna (nee Templin). He attended St John’s College school in Johnnanesburg and then graduated in law at the city’s University of the Witwatersrand, which he followed up by doing his articles with the legal firm Bowman Gilfillan. In 1968 he married Jill Denoon, an editorial assistant and human rights activist.

After he left South Africa in 1978, Andrew’s legal career in Britain focused on the media industry and corporate takeovers and disputes. He was the architect of the legal strategy adopted by the TV-am company during the 1987 strike that changed the power balance between employers and unions in the television industry.

He became a partner at the legal firm Lovell, White and King in 1982 and established its employment practice in the UK and Europe.

Andrew was also a trustee of the Legal Assistance Trust, which was founded by the human rights lawyer Felicia Kentridge, wife of Sir Sydney, and later was a trustee of the Canon Collins Educational and Legal Assistance Trust, which provides financial help for postgraduate students in southern Africa.

On retirement in 2002 Andrew provided legal support for the environmental think tank Forum for the Future.

Known for speaking his mind, he was generous and passionate, and was a strong family man who had a general enthusiasm for life.

He is survived by Jill, their children, Jessica and Matthew, and grandchildren, Lyra, Rosie and Nathaniel.


John Battersby

The GuardianTramp

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