Joel Joffe

The Joffe Charitable Trust was founded in 1968 by Joel and Vanetta Joffe.

Joel was a remarkable man who dedicated his life to helping others. As a young South African lawyer, Joel represented Nelson Mandela and 12 other defendants in the Rivonia Trial in 1963/4. He worked closely with Bram Fischer and the legal team, as “the general behind the scenes”, as Mandela put it.

Mandela went on to write “We have come to admire and respect this quiet, courageous man, whose devotion to the cause of the cause of justice has been .. in the very highest tradition of his calling.” In the years that followed, many others would come to agree.

In 1965, Joel moved to the UK and then co-founded Hambro Life Assurance, which became Allied Dunbar and then part of Zurich. In the following 50 years, Joel was highly influential in the British charity sector.

A champion of philanthropy

Joel championed effective philanthropy. During his lifetime, his Trust gave away about £15m. He was a trailblazer for corporate philanthropy at Allied Dunbar, founder of the 1% Club and chair of the Giving Campaign.

Joel blazed a trail in his charitable work with companies, charities, parliament and community groups. More than just a funder, he was a friend and mentor to charities large and small. Literally dozens of charities simply would not exist today without his support and encouragement.

Joel became a trustee of Oxfam GB in 1980 and was chair from 1995-2001. He was chair of at least five other charities, trustee of another seven and patron of at least 19. As well as work on international development, South Africa and mental health, he took a particular interest in supporting his much loved adopted home town of Swindon.

Joel was made a life peer in 2000 and worked in parliament to promote humane laws for assisted dying.

Joel’s method was to inspire and support others to do extraordinary things for public benefit. Through this, his work improved the lives of millions of people in the UK, South Africa and elsewhere.

After Joel died in 2017, Vanetta became Honorary President of the Joffe Charitable Trust. We were deeply saddened by her death in November 2023. She and Joel had an exceptionally close bond, forged in their shared experiences in South Africa.

Memories of Mandela.

A speech by Lord Joel Joffe.

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