Albie Sachs

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Albert Louis Sachs
Albie Sachs3.jpg
Justice Albie Sachs in South Africa's Constitutional Court
Judge of the Constitutional Court
In office
1994 – October 2009
Appointed by Nelson Mandela
Personal details
Born (1935-01-30) 30 January 1935 (age 80)
Nationality South African
Alma mater

Albert "Albie" Louis Sachs (born 30 January 1935)[1] is an activist and a former judge on the Constitutional Court of South Africa. He was appointed to the court by Nelson Mandela in 1994 and retired in October 2009. Justice Sachs gained international attention in 2005 as the author of the Court's holding in the case of Minister of Home Affairs v Fourie, in which the Court overthrew South Africa's statute defining marriage to be between one man and one woman as a violation of the Constitution's general mandate for equal protection for all and its specific mandate against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

Early life[edit]

Sachs was born into a South African Jewish family of Lithuanian background. He attended the South African College School (SACS) in Cape Town. His career in human rights activism started at the age of seventeen, when as a second year law student at the University of Cape Town, he took part in the Defiance of Unjust Laws Campaign.[2] Three years later, in 1955, he attended the Congress of the People at Kliptown, where the Freedom Charter was adopted.

He started practice as an advocate at the Cape Town Bar aged twenty one, where he defended people charged under racial statutes and security laws under South African Apartheid. Sachs has a law degree from the University of Cape Town and a PhD from Sussex University.

Imprisonment and exile[edit]

After being arrested and placed in solitary confinement for over five months, for his work in the freedom movement, Albie Sachs went into exile in England, and later Mozambique. He was represented in court by his advocate Wilfrid Cooper. In 1988, in Maputo, Mozambique, he lost an arm and his sight in one eye[3] when a bomb was placed in his car. After the bombing, he devoted himself to the preparations for a new democratic constitution for South Africa. He returned to South Africa and served as a member of the Constitutional Committee and the National Executive of the African National Congress.

Awards and writings[edit]

In 1991 he won the Alan Paton Award for his book Soft Vengeance of a Freedom Fighter. The book chronicles his response to the 1988 car bombing. A revised, updated and expanded edition was released in October 2011.[4] He is also the author of Justice in South Africa (1974), The Jail Diary of Albie Sachs (1966), Sexism and the Law (1979), and The Free Diary of Albie Sachs (2004). His most recent book, The Strange Alchemy of Life and Law (2009), also won the Alan Paton Award, making him the second person to have won it twice.[5] The Jail Diary of Albie Sachs was dramatized for the Royal Shakespeare Company by David Edgar, as well as for television and broadcast by the BBC in the late 1970s.[6]

He helped select the art collection at Constitution Hill, the seat of the Constitutional Court.

In 2006 his alma mater the University of Cape Town awarded him an honorary Doctorate in Law.[7][8] On 8 July 2008 Sachs was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws (LLD) degree by the University of Ulster in recognition of his contribution to human rights and justice globally.[9]

In 2009 Sachs received the Reconciliation Award as well as the Academy of Achievement Golden Plate Award.

On 16 July 2010 Sachs was further awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of the University of York for his contribution to the construction of post-apartheid South Africa, in particular for his involvement in the creation of the Constitution.[10]

On 20 June 2012 he received an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Dundee.[citation needed] In all, Sachs has 14 honorary degrees across four continents.[11]

On 21 June 2014 Sachs was awarded Taiwan's inaugural Tang Prize in the Rule of Law for his contributions to human rights and justice globally.[10][12]

Sachs was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg on the 10th December 2014.[13]

In 2015 Sachs was named a Ford Foundation Art of Change Fellow. [14] and received a Doctor of Laws degree from Columbia University.

Other Roles[edit]

He has also served as a member of the Kenya Judges and Magistrates Vetting Board.[15]


  1. ^ "Albie Sachs". Who's Who Southern Africa. Retrieved 27 July 2014. 
  2. ^ File: Participants in the 1952 Defiance Campaign[dead link]
  3. ^ "Justice Albie Sachs". Constitutional Court of South Africa. Retrieved 27 July 2014. 
  4. ^ Patrick Barkham (7 October 2011). "Albie Sachs: 'I can't tell my son everything'". The Guardian. Retrieved 27 July 2014. 
  5. ^ Emily Amos (26 July 2010). "More Coverage of the Sunday Times Literary Awards (Photos, Videos)". Books Live. Retrieved 27 July 2014. 
  6. ^ "The Jail Diary of Albie Sachs (1981)". IMDb. Retrieved 27 July 2014. 
  7. ^ "Honorary degrees awarded". University of Cape Town. Retrieved 27 July 2014. 
  8. ^ "A celebration of the law" (PDF). Law Review (University of Cape Town). September 2007. p. 1. Retrieved 27 July 2014. 
  9. ^ "Ulster honours Distinguished South African Jurist Albie Sachs" (Press release). University of Ulster. 8 July 2008. Retrieved 27 July 2014. 
  10. ^ a b Tang Prize awarded to S African activist [dead link]
  11. ^ [1][dead link]
  12. ^ "Sachs honoured for contribution to human rights". News 24. AFP. 21 June 2014. Retrieved 27 July 2014. 
  13. ^ University of the Witwatersrand, News 10 December 2014, retrieved 10 December 2014
  14. ^ Chang, Lia. "David Henry Hwang, Laura Poitras, Amitav Ghosh, Deeyah Khan, Bill Rauch, Robert Battle, Carrie Mae Weems named among 13 Ford Foundation “Art of Change” Fellows"., April 15, 2015
  15. ^[dead link]

External links[edit]