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Judge Albie Sachs to launch the Ruth First Scholarship

Date Released: Fri, 7 May 2010 15:15 +0200

The Ruth First Scholarship, a Rhodes University and Ruth First (UK) Trust project, will be launched by Judge Albie Sachs, a human rights activist and South African constitutional court judge of 15 years standing. His illustrious term on the Constitutional Court ended on 11 October 2009.

Judge Sachs, whose activism goes back to the tender age of 17 when he participated in the ‘Defiance of Unjust Laws Campaign’, will commemorate Ruth First through a lecture entitled ‘Ruth’.

As a human rights activist, the bulk of Sach’s work at the Cape Bar involved defending people charged under racist statutes and repressive security laws. After going into exile in 1966, he spent eleven years in England and eleven years in Mozambique as law professor and legal researcher.

In 1988 he lost his arm and sight in one eye as a result of being bombed in his car in Maputo by South African security agents. After the bombing, he devoted himself to the preparations for a new democratic constitution for South Africa.

He returned to South Africa and served as a member of the Constitutional Committee and the National Executive of the African National Congress.

In 1991 Sachs won the Alan Paton Award for his book ‘Soft Vengeance of a Freedom Fighter’. The book chronicles his response to the 1988 car bombing. He is also the author of Justice in South Africa (1974), The Jail Diary of Albie Sachs (1966), Sexism and the Law (1979), The Free Diary of Albie Sachs (2004), and, most recently, The Strange Alchemy of Life and Law (2009).

Judge Sachs gained international attention in 2005 as the author of the Court's holding in the case of Minister of Home Affairs v. Fourie, in which the Court overthrew South Africa's statute defining marriage to be between one man and one woman as a violation of the Constitution's general mandate for equal protection for all and its specific mandate against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

Judge Sachs is also recognised for the development of the differentiation between constitutional rights in three different degrees or generations of rights.

The ‘Ruth’ lecture will take place in Eden Grove Red Lecture Theatre at Rhodes on Monday 10 May at 18h00. Seats will be allocated on a first-come-first-served basis. The first 150 guests will receive a special Ruth First Commemoration booklet.