Albie Sachs: 'I chose not to be trapped in history'

2015-07-30 21:37
Albie Sachs (Picture: GCIS)

Albie Sachs (Picture: GCIS)

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Cape Town - "If an accident brings us together, that’s okay. But I am not going to go out of my way to reconnect with him."

These were the words of Judge Albie Sachs, who said on Thursday he had only twice met the man responsible for the car bomb which led to the loss of his arm, and sight in one eye.

He said the last time he had seen Henri van der Westhuizen, who had orchestrated the 1988 attack in Mozambique, was when he had invited him to the opening of the movie, Soft Vengeance: Albie Sachs and the New South Africa.

Sachs had asked Van der Westhuizen to be part of the film, based on his book The Soft Vengeance of a Freedom Fighter.

While Van der Westhuizen had agreed to star in the movie, he did not attend the opening.

"I was glad he didn’t come," Sachs told guests at a dialogue on trauma and healing hosted by the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation (IJR) and the University of the Free State’s Trauma, Forgiveness and Reconciliation Studies Project.

"It would've been too weighty and too emotional if he had been there. This was meant to be a celebration. It’s a story of transformation... which had been beautifully made.

"That would have introduced an intensity that was too much for me. I haven’t seen him since."


Sachs, who was a lawyer at the time, defended those charged under apartheid’s statutes and laws. He went into exile in the 1960s.

He returned to South Africa in 1990, where he was part of the negotiations, which led to the first democratic election.

In 1994, he was selected by former President Nelson Mandela to serve on the Constitutional Court.

Sachs said while forgiveness "fits into someone like Desmond Tutu’s belief system, that’s not part of my background".

He said he had, however, chosen "not to be trapped in history, but to turn it around, into something positive".

"I carry Henri around with me because he is in a film made about my life," Sachs said.

"If I should be seated next to him on a bus, I will greet him and ask him how he is. That’s okay."

Candice Mama, daughter of Glenack Masilo Mama, one of the "Nelspruit Four" who was murdered at Vlakplaas, also spoke of her decision to forgive Eugene de Kock, 23 years after he killed her father.

The dialogues are part of a research project between the university and the IJR and are aimed at analysing the various strategies individuals and communities have used to heal.

Read more on:    ufs  |  cape town

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