S5E5: The Jail Diary of Albie Sachs

15 Sep 2022
S5E5: The Jail Diary of Albie Sachs

Featured image credits: Albie Sachs by Steve Gordon

In this special episode, PEN SA president Nadia Davids invites Justice Albie Sachs to reflect on his first book, The Jail Diary of Albie Sachs (1966) – a testament to his resistance and resilience during the harsh deprivations of imprisonment.

Albie shares his experience of spending 168 days in solitary confinement, his struggle to convey the boredom and depression of detention as well as how he found beauty in writing about it. 

Albie Sachs is an activist, writer and former judge on the Constitutional Court of South Africa (1994 – 2009). He began practising as an advocate at the Cape Bar at the age of 21, defending people charged under the racial statutes and security laws of apartheid. After two spells of being detained in solitary confinement without trial, first for five months, then for three months, he went into exile in England, where he completed a PhD at Sussex University. 

In 1988, he lost his right arm and his sight in one eye when a bomb was placed in his car by South African security agents in Maputo, Mozambique. After the bombing, he devoted himself to the preparations for a new democratic constitution for South Africa. When he returned home from exile, he served as a member of the Constitutional Committee and the National Executive of the African National Congress until the first democratic elections in 1994. Sachs is a Board member of the Constitution Hill Trust, which promotes constitutionalism and the rule of law. He has travelled to many countries sharing South African experiences that might help heal divided societies.

He is the author of several books, including The Jail Diary of Albie Sachs, Justice in South Africa, Sexism and the Law, Soft Vengeance of a Freedom Fighter and The Strange Alchemy of Life and Law. His latest books are We, the People: Insights of an Activist Judge (2016) and Oliver Tambo’s Dream (2017).

In this episode we stand in solidarity with publisher, human rights defender and civil society leader Osman Kavala. In April 2022, he was sentenced to life in prison in Turkey. Albie has a personal and deeply moving message for Osman and reads from Nâzım Hikmet’s poem “On Living” as a tribute to him.

You can read more about his case here: https://pen-international.org/news/ruling-in-the-gezi-case-the-darkest-day-for-the-judiciary-of-turkey 
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