Camps Bay Primary School commemoratedNelson Mandela’s centenary this past week with among others a visit by former Constitutional Court Judge and Clifton resident, Albie Sachs, who spoke about his friendship with Tata Mandela.
Mr Sachs said he connected with Mr Mandela through history. His first connection with Mr Mandela was in 1952 in the Defiance Campaign. He said he worked with him very closely when they were in the ANC National Executive Committee (NEC) and working on the constitution.
“When he became a president, I was a judge and we had separation of powers and we were not supposed to mix too much because we controlled him through the constitution,” he said.
He said Mr Mandela respected the rule of law.
Mr Sachs described Mr Mandela as a person who was true to himself. He said even on TV, he was always human and recognised everyone. “He would joke, smile and notice everyone, from cameramen to boom operators, he connected with people and no one was invisible to him,” said Mr Sachs.
He went on to say that Mr Mandela was curious about the world and enjoyed all of humanity. “Even in his self-moment, there was a special composure about him, he spoke to the gardeners with the same respect and directness as he’d speak to Queen Elizabeth,” he added.
Mr Sachs said Tata Mandela was proud to be an African. He said to be an African to Madiba meant to represent the spirit of Ubuntu, graciousness, reaching out to others, musicality, warmth, concern and respect. “If the whites had been too narrow-minded, too close and too tight inside themselves, he’d show them that we can live together as equals but they’d need to get rid of their sense of superiority, but he did not shout and get angry, he just led by example,” he said.
Mr Sachs said Tata Mandela had a way of setting an example just by living his life with a sense of dignity, composure and showing that equality was what would take the country forward and African people as the majority would be in positions of leadership but not do what white people did to Africans.
Touching on the vision that Tata Mandela had, Mr Sachs said he wanted to use the constitution to tackle the hard problems such as economic challenges, social ills and injustices that continued to face society.
“When we voted for the first time, he said we were free to become free, free to get rid of terrible laws, injustices and the whole culture of white supremacy. Madiba’s vision was to make equality real in the lives of everybody,” he said.
Mr Sachs said he left the ANC NEC late in 1993 and dropped out of politics because he wanted to be considered for a judge. He said when he bid farewell to the NEC, he got a message that Tata Mandela wanted to see him. “It was a month before elections, I went to see him and found him looking so grave and tired and the first thing that he asked me was how the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was going to work.
“Tata wanted to know whether it gave amnesty to the generals and others who did terrible things to others. I explained to him that Parliament would lay down the terms and conditions and set up a truth commission and people would get amnesty if they came forward and acknowledged what they had done,” said Mr Sachs.
He said it was at that moment that he saw Tata Mandela vulnerable with the weight of history on his shoulders.
Touching on the current state of affairs in the country, Mr Sachs said the country needs to practise Ubuntu. He encouraged pupils to be kind and compassionate people.
He said people should unite and be true to the most important parts of themselves, and the things that they want for the world.
“We didn’t use the word Ubuntu so much in those days and that’s what we need in South Africa today; connecting with other humans beings to become better, richer, finer and more fun people,” he said.