Nelson Mandella’s Human Rights activist friend gets honorary degree

July 5, 2013 | by | 0 Comments

A human rights activist who helped his friend Nelson Mandela bring an end to Apartheid in South Africa received an honorary Degree from the University of Aberdeen.

Justice Albert Louis Sachs, 78, a former Judge of the Constitutional Court of South Africa, was a law student at the University of Cape Town, supporting the Defiance of Unjust Laws Campaign.

Paying tribute to his old friend at the awards ceremony Mr Sachs said: “He is uniting the nation as he approaches death, in the same way that he united the nation in life.

“My first connection with Nelson Mandela was in 1952, when I was a 17-year-old second year law student.

“I voluntarily broke an Apartheid law in support of a campaign, where he was a voluntary chief and I used to visit his offices.

“Years later, I met him in the underground resistance. We were all extremely tense at the time, because we would have gone to jail.”

As a young advocate at the Cape Bar, Mr Sachs’ work involved defending people charged under racist statutes and repressive security laws, many of whom faced the death sentence.

He himself was subjected to banning orders restricting his movement and later placed in solitary confinement without trial for two prolonged spells of detention.

In 1966 he went into exile and after spending 11 years studying and teaching law in England he worked for a further 11 years in Mozambique as law professor and legal researcher.

In 1988 Mr Sachs 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.

After recovering, he devoted himself 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.

And in 1994 he was appointed by President Nelson Mandela to serve on the newly established Constitutional Court.

In addition to his work on the Court, he has travelled to many countries sharing South African experience in healing divided societies.

Yesterday the human rights activist, who had visited the University of Aberdeen during his time in exile, addressed a new generation of graduates.

He said: “I’m very thrilled.  I came from one of the most southern Universities in the world and I was awarded by one of the most northern Universities today.

“It’s hard to travel, when someone you know is in a critical state, but Nelson Mandela’s family have assured us that he is at peace.

“He went to many universities, including Witwatersrand, but his most important university was Robin Island prison, which was a university of life, survival, hope and ultimately a university of reconciliation.

“He was taken from public life for 27 years, but his silence became very powerful — he became the symbol of resistance.

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