Soft Vengeance in South Africa 

GUEST LECTURER:  Justice Albie Sachs 

Justice Albie Sachs is one of the most important leaders in South Africa’s struggles against apartheid and the suppression of human rights. At 20, in 1955, he participated in the Congress of the People, where the Freedom Charter was adopted, and following law school, he defended people charged under racial statutes and security laws. Jailed for this work, he eventually had to leave the country. In 1988, Justice Sachs nearly lost his life when a bomb exploded under his car. Undaunted, he worked on writing South Africa’s bill of rights and democratic constitution and was appointed to the Constitutional Court by Nelson Mandela in 1994. His term on the court came to an end in 2009.

Winner of the Tang Prize for the Rule of Law in 2014, he is currently using a portion of the prize to tell the story of the making of South Africa’s democratic constitution and the Constitutional Court, which abolished capital punishment and ordered recognition of same-sex marriages. A prolific author, Albie is one of only two people to win the Alan Paton Award twice—in 1991 for his book The Soft Vengeance of a Freedom Fighter and in 2014 for The Strange Alchemy of Life and Law. A documentary about his life, Soft Vengeance: Albie Sachs and the New South Africa, by Abby Ginzberg, was released in 2014.

Albie is currently an Art of Change Fellow at the Ford Foundation. During his fellowship, Albie will work to ensure that the story of the making of South Africa’s constitution reaches the most marginalized person in the tiniest corner of the land. He will also seek to integrate the film Soft Vengeance into anti-retaliation and anti-bullying programs.


When South African freedom fighter Albie Sachs was grievously injured by a car bomb meant to take his life, an African National Congress comrade vowed vengeance. But Sachs, who became a justice of the South African Constitutional Court, wanted to take a higher path and follow the rule of law. Keep Reading.