Albie Sachs

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The Honourable
Albert Sachs
Albie Sachs3.jpg
Justice of the Constitutional Court
In office
November 1994 – October 2009
Nominated by Judicial Service Commission
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) is an activist and a former judge on the Constitutional Court of South Africa.[1]

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. As a second year law student at the University of Cape Town, where he earned his LLB, he took part in the Defiance Campaign.[2] Three years later, in 1955, he attended the Congress of the People at Kliptown, where the Freedom Charter was adopted.

Sachs started practice as an advocate at the Cape Bar aged 21, defending people charged under racial statutes and security laws under South African apartheid. 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, where he completed a PhD from Sussex University, and later Mozambique. 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.

Judicial career[edit]

Sachs was appointed to the Constitutional Court of South Africa by Nelson Mandela in 1994.[3] His appointment was controversial, primarily because of his conduct at his JSC interview, where he was asked about his role in a report downplaying the ANC's indefinite detention and solitary confinement of Umkhonto we Sizwe commander Thami Zulu.[4] One commissioner told Sachs his answers were "appalling" and criticised him for "sell[ing] his soul" by signing onto the report.[4] One prominent lawyer later said that if Sachs's interview had been more widely publicised he "could not possibly have been on the Court".[5] Sachs felt the criticism was unfair given his central role in ending torture in ANC camps.[6]

Many of Sachs's best-known judgments are on discrimination law. He was the main author of the majority judgment in Prinsloo v Van der Linde,[7] which established the connection between the right to equality and dignity. He was the author of the Court's majority judgment in Minister of Home Affairs v Fourie, in which the Court declared unconstitutional South Africa's statute defining marriage to be between one man and one woman.[8] O'Regan J strongly criticised Sachs for referring the regulation of same-sex marriage to Parliament rather than providing immediate relief. The two had, in 2002, written a joint dissent which held that the criminalisation of sex work (and not its solicitation) unfairly discriminates on the basis of gender and is therefore unconstitutional.[9]

Sachs retired in October 2009, along with Pius Langa, Yvonne Mokgoro and Kate O'Regan.[10]

Writings[edit]

In 1991, Sachs won the Alan Paton Award for his book Soft Vengeance of a Freedom Fighter, which chronicles his response to the 1988 car bombing.[11] 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.[12] 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.[13]

Other positions and awards[edit]

Sachs has 14 honorary degrees across four continents.[14] In 2009 he received the Reconciliation Award as well as the Academy of Achievement Golden Plate Award. On 21 June 2014 he was awarded Taiwan's inaugural Tang Prize in the Rule of Law for his contributions to human rights and justice globally.[15][16] In 2015 Sachs was named a Ford Foundation Art of Change Fellow.[17] Sachs had helped select the art collection at Constitution Hill, the seat of the Constitutional Court.

Sachs has also served as a member of the Kenya Judges and Magistrates Vetting Board.[18]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Albie Sachs". Who's Who Southern Africa. Retrieved 27 July 2014. 
  2. ^ File: Participants in the 1952 Defiance Campaign[dead link]
  3. ^ a b "Justice Albie Sachs". Constitutional Court of South Africa. Retrieved 27 July 2014. 
  4. ^ a b "JSC interview: Albert Louis Sachs". Constitutional Court. 4 October 1994. 
  5. ^ "Constitutional Court Oral History Project: Dennis Davis" (PDF). 6 January 2012. 
  6. ^ "Constitutional Court Oral History Project: Albie Sachs" (PDF). 10 January 2012. 
  7. ^ Prinsloo v Van der Linde and Another (1997) ZACC 5; 1997 (3) SA 1012 (CC).
  8. ^ Minister of Home Affairs and Another v Fourie and Another (2005) ZACC 19; 2006 (1) SA 524 (CC).
  9. ^ S v Jordan and Others (Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Task Force and Others as Amici Curiae) (2002) ZACC 22; 2002 (6) SA 642 (CC).
  10. ^ Alcock, Sello; Russouw, Mandy (29 May 2009). "Zuma's judges dilemma". Mail & Guardian. 
  11. ^ Patrick Barkham (7 October 2011). "Albie Sachs: 'I can't tell my son everything'". The Guardian. Retrieved 27 July 2014. 
  12. ^ Emily Amos (26 July 2010). "More Coverage of the Sunday Times Literary Awards (Photos, Videos)". Books Live. Retrieved 27 July 2014. 
  13. ^ "The Jail Diary of Albie Sachs (1981)". IMDb. Retrieved 27 July 2014. 
  14. ^ [1][dead link]
  15. ^ Tang Prize awarded to S African activist [dead link]
  16. ^ "Sachs honoured for contribution to human rights". News 24. AFP. 21 June 2014. Retrieved 27 July 2014. 
  17. ^ 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". BackstagePasswithLiaChang.com, April 15, 2015
  18. ^ http://www.jmvb.or.ke/index.php/about-us/members-profile[dead link]

External links[edit]