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'We had a disdain for money. Material possessions counted for so little'

12 September 2019 3:20 PM

Justice Albie Sachs talks about his attitude to money (hopes and fears, successes and failures, etc.).
Former Constitutional Court Justice Albie Sachs. Picture: EWN.

We had a disdain for money… Material possessions counted for so little. We lived on dreams, on imagination, on revolution, on changing the world…

Albie Sachs

I’m not poor. I once got a prize of $1 million… For less than a nanosecond, I thought of refusing it. You shouldn’t get a prize for rule of law… But it was only for a nanosecond… But I was worried. It could destabilise me. I gave away half… and paid off my bond…

Albie Sachs

These [apartheid] cases I did for nothing… I knew I’d go to jail one day… Each day [in solitary confinement] was like five years…

Albie Sachs

Every week The Money Show’s Bruce Whitfield interviews a famous person about her or his attitude to money (hopes and fears, successes and failures, etc.) as part of his weekly “Make Money Mondays, Personal Edition” feature.

This week Whitfield interviewed Albie Sachs (born 30 January 1935), an anti-apartheid activist and a former judge on the Constitutional Court of South Africa.

Sachs earned his LLB at the University of Cape Town where he took part in the Defiance Campaign.

In 1955 he attended the Congress of the People at Kliptown where the Freedom Charter was adopted.

Sachs started his law practice when he was only 21, defending people charged under racist apartheid laws.

After spending five months in solitary confinement for his activism - without a trial, he went into exile in England where he obtained a PhD from Sussex University.

He later went to Mozambique.

In 1988 he lost an arm and was blinded in one eye in an assassination attempt by the South African security service who place a bomb in his car.

To wake up without an arm but to feel joyously alive, to learn to do everything – to sit up, to stand, to walk, to run, to write again. Every little detail became a moment of discovery and breakthrough. I had an absolute conviction that as I got better, my country got better.

Albie Sachs (quote taken from a 2011 Mail and Guardian article)

After the bombing, he devoted himself to preparing for a new, democratic Constitution.

President Nelson Mandela appointed Sachs to the Constitutional Court in 1994.

He is the author of the Court’s majority judgement that led to the legalisation of same-sex marriage.

Sachs retired in October 2009.

  • But what is it that Sachs believes about money?

  • How did his childhood experiences shape his views on money?

Listen to the interview in the audio below (and scroll down for more quotes from it).

I matriculated at 15 and I came second in my class.

Albie Sachs

My dad was expelled from the Communist Party…

Albie Sachs

We [white anti-apartheid activists] were seen as traitors…

Albie Sachs

South Africans really didn’t want to be fighting each other…

Albie Sachs

You can’t rush an [Constitutional] amendment through in a hurry… Section 25 is wide enough to allow for expropriation without compensation without amendment… Sooner or later this country has had to face up to [land restitution]… it’s upon us now. Let’s do it with dignity…

Albie Sachs

...I’m amazed to discover I’m conservative! I’ve never been considered conservative in my life!

Albie Sachs



12 September 2019 3:20 PM

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