The first time I arrived as a refugee in the UK I was psychologically wrecked…

Justice Albie Sachs, appointed by Nelson Mandela to South Africa’s first Constitutional Court,reflects on four decades of association with CARA.

Albie Sachs, a Jewish lawyer born into the privileged white community, worked as an advocate, defending people charged under the racist statutes and repressive security laws of South Africa’s ‘apartheid’ regime. After repeated harassment and imprisonment for his work in the freedom movement, Albie Sachs went into exile in 1966, at first in England and then, from 1977, in Mozambique. In 1988, in Maputo, he lost his arm and his sight in one eye when a bomb was placed in his car by South African security agents. After lengthy medical treatment he worked at Columbia University, New York, and then, from 1989, at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University of London, devoting himself to the preparations for a new democratic constitution for South Africa. He returned to South Africa after Nelson Mandela’s release and served as a member of the Constitutional Committee and the National Executive of the African National Congress. He was a Justice in the Constitutional Court of South Africa from 1994-2009.

He has written about his experiences in ‘The Jail Diary of Albie Sachs’ (which was also turned into a play); ‘The Soft Vengeance of a Freedom Fighter’; and ‘The Strange Alchemy of Life and Law’.  He received a grant from CARA (the Council for Assisting Refugee Academics) in 1966 and another in 1989.

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