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  • Writer's pictureRuth First Trust

Words of wisdom and encouragement from our Patron

Updated: Sep 15, 2021

The Ruth First Jeppe Memorial Trust is immensely privileged to have former Constitutional Court Justice Albie Sachs as our Patron. One of Ruth First’s closest friends, he too was attacked by a bomb intended to kill him. It is a miracle that he survived to play such a significant role in the development of our country's democracy.

Latitude Asks Questions (LAQ) conducted an interview with Justice Sachs ahead of lockdown, and with their permission, we share it with you.


"Watching South Africa grow and change since the fall of apartheid, do you have faith in our country's ability to overcome the overwhelming challenges presented by Covid-19? And if we are indeed able to flatten the curve, is it idealistic to think the pandemic may have the potential to break our society from a pattern of escalating political and cultural polarisation and help us to change course toward greater human solidarity and functionality?"

Albie Sachs:

"Yes, we certainly can. We have in fact encountered worse calamities and emerged from them wounded but triumphantly stronger. The first was the plague of hurt and hatred engendered by apartheid.

Through intelligence, generosity, and, yes, idealism, we overcame the cruel divisions, voted as equals in our millions for the first time and reconfigured ourselves as a nation. At last we could say: We the People.

Next, we had the HIV-Aids pandemic, far more drastic in impact than COVID-19 can be. Millions died needlessly because of HIV denialism in high places. Yet today we have forgotten how bleak the future looked then. The Treatment Action Campaign involving hundreds of thousands of people on the ground living with HIV, coupled with effective public awareness activities and successful litigation in the Constitutional Court, opened the way to South Africa now having the most comprehensive antiretroviral programme in the world. In responding to the Coronavirus today we have clear, decisive and compassionate leadership.

We have international experience to guide us. And above all, if early indications are anything to go by, there are multitudes upon multitudes of thoughtful and caring South Africans from all walks of life who fully accept the need to keep apart in order to stand together.

South Africa gave the bitter words concentration camps and apartheid to the world. Today we offer to humanity the healing word – Ubuntu.

We will get through this disaster, and because of our thoughtfulness, generosity, and, yes, our idealism, we the people will emerge – wounded, but stronger."

Words of wisdom and encouragement from one of the great founders of our democracy. It is easy to see why Justice Sachs is such an incredible role model and inspiration to our Ruth First Scholarship Community.

Photo: Former Constitutional Court Judge Albie Sachs (2016). Portrait courtesy Constitution Hill.

Interview posted on Latitudes Art Fair Facebook page 27 March 2020.

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