Anti-apartheid activist says tolerance is just the beginning

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COLUMBIA - Nelson Mendela may be who comes to mind when thinking of anti-apartheid activists, but the University of Missouri had another very prominent activist, one of Mendela's colleagues, on campus Monday. 

Former judge on the Constitutional Court of South Africa and human rights activist Albie Sachs was in Columbia to answer questions about the film based on his fight against the apartheid in South Africa. The film is titled "Soft Vengeance" and is directed by Abby Grinzburg. 

Sachs also took time to talk with students about the struggles living in a divided country. 

"The apartheid tainted everything, it tainted life, it tainted death, it tainted schooling, where you lived who you could meet with and so on," said Sachs. "So we challenged all that."

Sachs said that when he was a child, there was no way for people affected by the apartheid to improve their lives. He said learning a sense of tolerance was one of the most important things that helps eliminate inequality. 

"I don't just mean tolerance in a wide sense thing," said Sachs. "It's that sense of associating with other people very different from yourself by sharing common goals and ideals and living together and working together."

Sachs survived an assassination attempt in 1988 that resulted in the loss of his right arm due to his involvement with the anti-apartheid movement.

As a young lawyer during the apartheid in South Africa, Sachs said it took extra effort to make sure the right thing was done. 

"It was very difficult fighting as a lawyer fighting in an unjust system using sometimes the language of justice, but knowing the laws themselves were wicked," said Sachs. 

In 1994, Sachs said South Africa's was the first, if not only, constitution that expressly excluded sexual orientation from ridicule. He was imperative to changing sodomy laws and had them struck down. 

The University of Missouri is helping archive all his papers during his time in government at the University of the Western Cape. Sachs said he is looking for ways to have students from each university interact to create a community.

 

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