13 July 2002
Percy YUTAR, most prominent in the public eye during the early 1960s as a
State prosecutor in the Rivonia treason trial in which Nelson MANDELA and
other African National Congress activists were sentenced to life
imprisonment, has died at the age of 90 in Johannesburg. Dr. YUTAR died in
the Morningside Clinic on Saturday and was buried on Sunday in accordance
with Jewish tradition.
His widow Cecilia said that her husband of 54 years had suffered a stroke
and a minor heart attack in April. He was in hospital for a few days in
April. Once home, he had a few mild strokes.
YUTAR was born in 1911 in Cape Town, attended Maitland Public School and
the University of Cape Town. He graduated >from UCT in 1931 with a BA Law
degree and, in 1938, became the first student to get a masters degree from
He was admitted to the Bar in 1934 and was then employed by the Post Office
to trace defaulting telephone subscribers. He was accepted by the justice
department in 1937 as a clerical assistant. YUTAR later cited then
secretary for justice Hansie VAN RENSBURG's instruction that his ancestry
be traced to ascertain whether his parents were Jewish or not as the point
at which he decided to remain in government service and to become the
country's first Jewish attorney-general.
In 1940 he was appointed chief crime prosecutor in Johannesburg, became
deputy attorney-general of the Transvaal in 1960, attorney-general of the
Orange Free State in 1968 and later attorney-general of the Transvaal until
his retirement >from government service in 1976.
Then-minister of justice Jimmy KRUGER described him as "the official with
the highest sense of loyalty" he had ever found in a public servant.
He played a leading role in Jewish synagogue life in South Africa.
YUTAR married Cecilia FAINFINGER in 1948 and has one son, David.