Struggle stalwart Judge Albie Sachs has spoken out about the importance of using the constitution to address South Africa’s socio-economic issues.
Judge Sachs was speaking at Part 4 of the Oliver Tambo Centenary Lecture Series this past week.
Speaking about OR Tambo, the man, Judge Sachs said he was a “democrat supreme”. He went on to say that a paternity test of the Constitution would reveal O.R. Tambo’s DNA.
Sachs explained how O.R. Tambo began the formulation of a democratic constitution for South Africa in while in exile in Lusaka, Zambia.
“To say that the South African Constitution is un-African is to say that O.R Tambo himself, was not an African”
He added that the struggle for liberation was not about one man. It was one driven by and for the people.
Sachs also highlighted the importance of upholding women’s rights, worker’s rights and socio-economic rights in the country. He said that the constitution was the best tool to achieve this.
He pointed out that the struggle is ongoing saying, “a new generation, not my generation, should be pushing ahead to bring about change.”
Sachs said that Stellenbosch was a vivid example of possibilities but also of needs.
“It’s still a white town, by and large. I feel it, I sense it in the architecture, the assumptions, and the attitudes of who are in charge here.”
He acknowledged that the state of affairs is changing, and encouraged the university to take a central role in bringing about transformation rather than being forced to change.
Sachs’s address comes as students are questioning whether or not events like the Oliver Tambo Centenary Lecture Series perpetuate the very inequality and lack of access that Tambo and other liberation movement figures fought against.
For example, Stellenbosch University student, Mischka Lewis took to social media to voice her concerns over the Lecture Series.
In her post, she asserts that those who experience the brunt of inequality in South Africa must be given platforms to regain their voice. The post implied that events such as the Oliver Tambo Centenary Lecture Series is an example of “having privileged strata of society speak on inequality”.
BASC committee member Masixole Ndamandama said, “I think the judge touched on this kind of comment, by saying that we need to make the judiciary more accessible to the masses.”
Ndamandama pointed out that this could be achieved through representation, by making court proceedings available in all eleven official languages.
He said that the current activism we see from poor or deprived communities, in the form of service delivery protests is a cry for help and those kind of issues could be resolved through the courts.
“The masses need to be educated about the structures available to them in the Judicial sphere.”
Guests included the Archbishop of Cape Town, Thabo Makgoba, Prof. Sandra Liebenberg, H.F. Oppenheimer Chair in Human Rights Law and University Museum Curator Bongani Mgijima.
Prof Eugene Cloete, the university’s head of research, innovation and postgraduate studies was also in attendance and gave the opening remarks. – Aydn Parrott and Welile Makena