Albie Sachs, an internationally recognized rights activist and co-author of South Africa’s Constitution, will speak on “Nelson Mandela as a Leader, Comrade, and Friend” at a June 4 public event in Flint.
Sachs will speak at 6 p.m. in the Michigan Rooms of the Harding Mott University Center on the University of Michigan-Flint campus. Seating will open at 5:30 p.m. Sachs will sign copies of his books, which will be for sale from Barnes & Noble after the presentation.
The event is co-sponsored by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation and the University of Michigan-Flint. The event is free and open to the public. To reserve a seat, contact the Office of University Relations at the University of Michigan-Flint at 810-237-6570.
Sachs, 78, was maimed in a car bomb while working with African National Congress (ANC) leaders in exile. He went on to negotiate South Africa’s peaceful transition from the apartheid system to a constitutional democracy in the 1990s and served for 15 years on the Constitutional Court, the country’s highest court.
“The Mott Foundation is honored to host a man who has made such a significant impact on world history,” said Mott Foundation President William S. White. “Albie Sachs is a hero of the anti-apartheid movement and a leader of South Africa’s democratic revolution. Furthermore, he is an internationally acclaimed human rights activist who has faced and overcome great danger in his lifelong crusade for equality and justice. Since the first stirrings of democracy in South Africa in the 1980s, the Mott Foundation has funded programs that encourage democratic participation and human rights, areas in which Justice Sachs has always played a vital role.”
As a lawyer defending the rights of black South Africans in the 1950s and ’60s, Sachs frequently was targeted for retribution by the white-controlled government. He once was sentenced to solitary confinement for six months without a trial before being exiled for 24 years. In Mozambique in 1988, a car bomb planted by South African security agents left him without his right arm and blind in one eye. Three years later he published “The Soft Vengeance of a Freedom Fighter” describing his long path to recovery.
While in exile, Sachs worked with the ANC’s Constitutional Committee writing South Africa’s current constitution, one of the world’s most progressive. Among the constitutional innovations he advocated were equal access to housing, water, health care, and a clean environment.
“The whole achievement of our wonderful new democratic constitution is soft vengeance,” Sachs said in 2011 interview. “It totally smites the horror, the division, the hatreds, the separations of apartheid but—it does so in a way that is benign and creative and humanizing. It’s a far more profound vengeance than doing to them what they did to us.”
Sachs has written nearly a dozen legal and biographical books, including “The Jail Diary of Albie Sachs” (1966), which was dramatized by the BBC; “Sexism and the Law” (1979); and “The Soft Vengeance of a Freedom Fighter,” the recently updated memoir which won South Africa’s top prize for non-fiction in 1991.
“The historical contributions of Justice Albie Sachs are an important lesson for our students and the community,” said Chancellor Ruth J. Person. “The particular challenges Sachs overcame to help his country transition to a post-apartheid nation are of great interest to our campus, and offer us the opportunity for dialogue on the issues of social justice that are so relevant today. We are grateful for the partnership of the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation to make possible the visit of a significant figure of peace and progress at the University of Michigan-Flint.”
The Mott Foundation made its first grant in South Africa in 1988. The Foundation continues to support programs there that give the poor access to social justice in order to reduce poverty and encourage self-reliance.
The Mott Foundation, established in 1926 by an automotive pioneer, is a private philanthropy committed to supporting projects that promote a just, equitable and sustainable society. It supports nonprofit programs throughout the U.S. and, on a limited geographic basis, internationally. Grantmaking is focused in four programs: Civil Society, Environment, Flint Area and Pathways Out of Poverty. Besides Flint, offices are located in metropolitan Detroit, Johannesburg (South Africa) and London. The Foundation, with 2012 year-end assets of $2.28 billion, made 439 grants totaling $91 million. For more information, visit www.mott.org.