Albie Sachs

An activist and former Constitutional Court judge of South Africa.
Albie Sachs
Albie Sachs Pro-account

Albert "Albie" Louis Sachs is an activist and a former judge on the Constitutional Court of South Africa. After losing his arm in a car-bomb explosion in Mozambique (due to his opposition of the apartheid), he fled to the United States. He now resides in Cape Town, South Africa.

Sachs's career in human rights activism started when, as a second-year law student at the University of Cape Town, he participated in the Defiance of Unjust Laws Campaign. Later he attended the Congress of the People at Kliptown where the Freedom Charter was adopted.

By the age of 21, he was an advocate at the Cape Bar, where the bulk of his work involved defending people charged under racist statutes and repressive security laws. He 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 Sachs went into exile. After studying and teaching law in England he spent 11 years in Mozambique as law professor and legal researcher. In 1988, a bomb placed in his car by South African security agents exploded. Sachs lost an arm and sight in one eye.

Working with Oliver Tambo in the 1980s, he helped draft the ANC's Code of Conduct and Statutes, devoting himself to preparations for a democratic constitution for South Africa. In 1989 he wrote a paper on culture that provoked intense debate inside the ANC and later in 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 that led to South Africa becoming a constitutional democracy. After the 1994 election president Nelson Mandela appointed him to serve on the newly established Constitutional Court.

He has travelled widely, sharing his South African experience in healing divided societies. He has also been engaged in the sphere of art and architecture, and played an active role in the development of the Constitutional Court building on the site of the Old Fort Prison in Johannesburg.