[act-ma] 9/12 Soft Vengeance: Albie Sachs & the New South Africa

Charlie Welch cwelch at tecschange.org
Sat Sep 6 04:30:27 PDT 2014

/*Soft Vengeance: Albie Sachs & the New South Africa*/

Documentary screening followed by a discussion with Justice Sachs and 
the filmmaker Abby Ginzberg

Friday, September 12, 2014

3:00 - 5:30 pm

Austin Hall North, Harvard Law School

Cambridge, MA

Albie Sachs served for 15 years as a Justice of the Constitutional Court 
of South Africa and has played a prominent role in the country's 
struggle for justice. An anti-apartheid activist, Justice Sachs was 
exiled for 23 years and survived an assassination attempt. He is the 
recipient of the inaugural Tang Prize for Rule of Law.

Sponsored by the Harvard Law School International Legal Studies Program


SOFT VENGEANCE is a film about Albie Sachs, a lawyer, writer, art lover 
and freedom fighter, set against the dramatic events leading to the 
overthrow of the apartheid regime in South Africa. Shining a spotlight 
on Albie's story provides a prism through which to view the challenges 
faced by those unable to tolerate a society founded on principles of 
slavery and disempowerment of South Africa's majority black population. 
As a young man, Albie defended those committed to ending apartheid in 
South Africa. For his actions as a lawyer, he was imprisoned in solitary 
confinement in Cape Town, tortured through sleep deprivation and forced 
into exile. In 1988 he was blown up by a car bomb set by the South 
African security forces in Maputo, Mozambique, which cost him his right 
arm and the sight of one eye, but miraculously he survived and after a 
long year of rehabilitation in England, he recovered.  Returning to 
South Africa following the release of Nelson Mandela, Albie helped write 
the new Constitution and was then appointed as one of the first 11 
judges to the new Constitutional Court, which for the past 20 years has 
been insuring that the rights of all South Africans are afforded protection.

As Albie was recovering in a London hospital from the car bomb he 
received a note reading: "Don't worry, comrade Albie, we will avenge 
you." What kind of country would it be, he wondered, if it ended up 
filled with people who were blind and without arms? But if we achieve 
democracy, freedom and the rule of law, he said to himself, that will be 
my soft vengeance." As it turned out, the first phase of his soft 
vengeance started with his becoming one of the principal architects of 
South Africa's new non-racial, non-sexist Constitution. It went on to 
include his meeting through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission with 
the man who had organized the placing of the bomb in his car, and ended 
with him being chosen by Nelson Mandela as one of the first eleven 
members of South Africa's first Constitutional Court set up to guarantee 
the implementation of the fundamental rights for which they had been 

Adding to the visual texture of the film is the story behind the 
construction of the Constitutional Court building, in which Albie played 
a critical role. He was among those who recommended that the new Court 
building be erected in the heart of the prison where both Gandhi and 
Mandela had been imprisoned and be designed to represent enlightenment 
and hope where once there had been despair. Albie became curator in 
chief of the Court's unique art collection representing the themes of 
human dignity, equality and freedom that lay at the heart of the new 
Bill of Rights. As Albie said: "The building was designed to be a 
continuing part of the freedom struggle, and to epitomize in its very 
openness and sense of humaneness, the values of human dignity, equality 
and freedom that lay at the core of the constitutional endeavor."

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