Friday, 15 February 2013

Albie Sachs at TEDxEuston 2012 - The soft vengeance of a freedom fighter

“There is only one vengeance that can assuage the loss of my arm, and it is a historical one: victory of our ideals.” 
Those are the words of Albie Sachs who lost an arm and an eye to a bomb planted by security forces frustrated by his fight for his ideals: a world where all men are equal. His TEDxEuston 2012 talk challenges the conventional wisdom of how we look at vengeance.  It is not hard, like rock. Vengeance, in his words, is 'soft.'   It is something we seek not to satisfy our personal quest for revenge, but it is rather a quest for change.

He moved 600 people to tears with his incredible personal story. 

Find out his talk HERE

On turning six, during World War II, Albie Sachs received a card from his father expressing the wish that he would grow up to be a soldier in the fight for liberation. 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. Three years later he attended the Congress of the People at Kliptown where the Freedom Charter was adopted. He started practice as an advocate at the Cape Bar aged 21. The bulk of his work involved defending people charged under racist statutes and repressive security laws. Many faced the death sentence. He himself was raided by the security police, subjected to banning orders restricting his movement and eventually placed in solitary confinement without trial for two prolonged spells of detention. In 1966 he went into exile. After spending eleven years studying and teaching law in England he worked for a further eleven years in Mozambique as law professor and legal researcher. In 1988 he was blown up by a bomb placed in his car in Maputo by South African security agents, losing an arm and the sight of an eye. During the 1980s working closely with Oliver Tambo, leader of the ANC in exile, he helped draft the organisation's Code of Conduct, as well as its statutes. After recovering from the bomb he devoted himself full-time to preparations for a new democratic Constitution for South Africa. In 1990 he returned home and as a member of the Constitutional Committee and the National Executive of the ANC took an active part in the negotiations which led to South Africa becoming a constitutional democracy. After the first democratic election in 1994 he was appointed by President Nelson Mandela to serve on the newly established Constitutional Court. During his fifteen years on the Court he and his colleagues produced a number of pioneering decisions on advancing human rights in contemporary Africa. He has since travelled to many countries sharing South African experience in healing divided societies. Right now he is serving for a year in Kenya as one of three foreign judges on a Vetting Board that is interviewing all the country’s judges and magistrates to decide if they are suitable to remain on the Bench.

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