Oliver’s Dream part III

About This Project

It is always special to give a lecture. It is especially special to give a lecture to honour Oliver Tambo in the centenary year of his birth. It is specially, specially, specially special to do so here at UWC [University of the Western Cape]. I don’t know if any of you are familiar with the Duke of Wellington? He defeated Napoleon at the battle of Waterloo, and Wellington, our little dorpie is named after him. He made a statement that has become quite famous. He said ‘the Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eaton’… Eaton, the upper-class school for gentlemen and they learned to become generals and I suppose killers, and so on. I’m going to say that the battle of Kempton Park and CODESA [Convention for a Democratic South Africa] was won in the seminar rooms of UWC.


One of my enjoyable pursuits at a solemn occasion like this is to ask people which were the two universities that made the biggest contribution to the South African Constitution? Alright, let me throw it over to you…UCT? No, Wits? No, Stellenbosch? No, Pretoria? No, Durban? No, Fort Hare? No, UWC? Yes! And the second one? Rhodes? No… Potchefstroom!

Why? Work it out…UWC was close to the struggle. When the Constitutional Committee relocated from Lusaka to South Africa in 1990, it was Zola Skweyiya was the chair, it included Penuell Maduna, George Sebotwana, Brigitte Mabandla, Albie Sachs, Kadar Asmal. Those names, where did we end up? Zola Skweyiya, at the Community Law Centre, Bridgette Mbandla? At the Community Law Centre, Kadar Asmal, Community Law Centre, Albie Sachs, Community Law Centre and it wasn’t just finding employment so that we could earn a living and get on with our political work. It was an active, engaged, scholarly life. We regarded ourselves as revolutionaries in the sense of people dedicated to the total destruction of the system of apartheid and creation of a new system and we were willing to give our lives [for that cause]…Jaap mentioned or somebody mentioned the sacrifices made by Oliver Tambo, Albie Sachs- we didn’t make sacrifices, we lived intense, committed, engaged, joyous lives, perhaps the most privileged lives of people on earth because we were part and parcel of a freedom struggle and we brought that spirit with us and we came back to South Africa and we joined on the Constitutional Committee by Pius Langa, head of NADEL [National Association of Democratic Lawyers] then, by Dullah Omar (head of the Community Law Centre), Bulelani Ngcuka (also working at the Community Law Centre), Fink Haysom, Essa Moosa and some other people. And, this was where UWC became an engine room of committed thought about a new Constitution. Not just waffle, not just slogans, not just fancy words, this was going to be our life-time achievement, the achievement of our ancestors, previous people in the struggle generation. How can we get a country South Africa, a country South Africa, not just a territory with populations in it, as we were divided into – Bantustans and group areas and whites and blacks and coloureds, Indians… a country, a united country, a single country and how could we do it as part of the African continent…where the world was so influenced by racist ideas, afro-pessimism?…democracy is not for Africa, democracy is not for Africa, black people can’t rule…tribalism takes over, people just look after themselves,  and we had to prove and disprove and, re-prove in the minds of our organisation, of the people of this country, the people of this continent, the people of the world, that democracy was for us…and I still recall somebody from the American embassy coming to the Constitutional Committee one day and saying ‘err, Professor Sachs, you know, we really would like the constitutional negotiations to succeed, what can we do to help level the playing fields?’… he’s offering us help, and I said, ‘Mr so-and-so, if you want to level the playing fields, help the South African government- we are way ahead of them in our thought, our conceptualisation, our organisation’…and we were. It wasn’t just that we had a powerful moral argument – they were the people who constructed, who lived by racism, apartheid -denounced by the world. We were the apostles of democracy, of freedom and justice – of course we had a much easier path to follow in that sense. But much more than that, we had lived everywhere, we’d lived on all the continents, we lived in East Germany and West Germany. We lived in Cuba and Canada, we’d lived in China and India, we’d lived in the Netherlands, in the UK, and above all, we lived in Africa, all over the African continent. We’d lived in newly independent countries in Africa, I still remember in Mozambique one day our Comrade President, Oliver Tambo, was coming to visit us…he flies from the one-party state of Zambia, to the People’s Republic of Mozambique. He then is driven up to the monarchy of Swaziland, and then flies to then, the military-ruled Lesotho. In one day, four different systems of government. These weren’t  just theoretical matters for us, these were lived experiences and we’d seen the good and we’d seen the bad and we’d seen the ugly- on our continent, people grappling with the kinds of problems our country would have to grapple with and we’d seen problems inside our own organisation…of abuse of office, abuse of power. The constitution-making was then to go deep into ourselves, to create a set of institutions and values that would honour all of those who’d struggled, who’d fought for, who believed in the possibility of South Africa being a free and democratic country. This was serious business… and we had to get it right.


So that was the one huge advantage we had, having lived everywhere and seen it first-hand, different systems, Bulgaria, the Soviet Union, Norway, Sweden, but also, Egypt and Nigeria and Tanzania and Zimbabwe and Zambia, and Mozambique and Angola, Cote D’Ivoire. We had a second, huge advantage, and by the way in those days we spoke about the enemy (the regime) and that was UWC as a base for organizing workshops. Our Constitutional committee was pretty powerful in terms of brain power. In addition to the people I mentioned, Nelson Mandela asked one of his lawyers of the Rivonia trial to participate. That was Arthur Chaskalson and George Bizos.  So we were smart, thoughtful and experienced. But there were things we knew nothing about. Should we have a Constitutional Court? What kind of electoral system should we have? Should socioeconomic rights be in the Constitution as enforceable rights? How to organize the regions. There were powerful moves to divide South Africa into little Cantons that somehow would just work out nicely, Bishopscourt would be in one Canton and Langa would be in another Canton and they would have self-government. We had to understand those things. Affirmative action, how did it work in Malaysia? In India? In the United States? We needed more information.  How could we do this?  We were the constitutional committee. We were very good with ideas and research and paper so we got the Community Law Centre (I’m still not used to the Dullah Omar name, I don’t want to use it, it is destroying Dullah as an activist and making him into a memory just to say the name of the centre like that). And there was also the CDS (the Centre for Democratic Studies) and they had access to some funding. And of course the issue of land… land … land.  My second lecture was on land so I’m not going to deal with it this evening but when it’s made available I will send you the link, you get my views on that.

But what strategies to adopt and in particular, okay we want to get rid of apartheid but how do we structure Government? We were very good at making the Country ungovernable. Ooh we were smart at that. But Governing, now that’s another whole thing altogether. We used to being the opposition, challenging, destroying. For some people in fact it was so much a part and parcel of their psyches they continued even when we were making progress. They were always opposing, opposing, opposing. Some of us were longing to heal, to build, to construct, to see the fruits of the things we’d been fighting for.

I’m going to mention two examples of where we took the sessions as a Constitutional Committee that were part of this ideal of creating a country of which we could be proud. A country with values.  It wasn’t about power. It was about achieving the Tambo dream, if you like.  A country with those deep values that were really meaningful in the lives of the people.  And already in Lusaka, we were discussing, do we want a Presidential system or something more like the prime ministerial system where the head of the country is not chosen directly as in the United States or in France now, but the head of Government is chosen by Parliament. And at first, can I just stay, we of course wanted a directly elected President and we knew Nelson Mandela was enormously popular. We had a figure like that, wow he would sweep the power. And people were saying that’s the African culture/tradition of personalized rule. We reflected, we said no, we were concerned, we used to have a Governor General in the old days sent by the British who was a supreme chief of all natives representing the King and the Queen. And then we had the traditional leaders under apartheid. The unpatriotic ones were deposed. Many of them sided with the regime. Because they did not have the support of the people they became dictatorial towards the people. That tradition of the top leader being dictatorial and abuse of African culture that had been so democratic now becoming so autocratic. And then we had the third tradition, one of the traditions of our struggle. Underground political military work by its very nature had to be top-down. Now you put these three traditions together, you elect a president you can say bye-bye to Parliament.  Power would be concentrated in that person. And we said no we want the President to be accountable to Parliament. And that was a decision that was against the interests of the ANC getting into power after the first elections. But it was done for our country.

And then, I’m speaking now not as a former judge, I’m speaking as a former activist, err… I took off my hat when I sat down here. We felt this was really what it was about, it was a struggle for freedom, it wasn’t a struggle for power. It was a struggle to enable the people of our country to feel free to be free. There’s some people today they are not happy with who the President happens to be and they are arguing for a directly elected president. If they are unhappy with the President who was chosen by Parliament, imagine if that President had been chosen directly by the people.

The second area… one of the workshops we had was on electoral systems and we used to have a secret ballot inside the ANC. The unions had ballots but we knew nothing about electoral systems for a whole country. So we invited people from other countries, we invited experts inside South Africa. We invited people from each of the ANC regions came to the workshops. And we collaborated with other university bodies in a very free and open way. We didn’t start off with any pre-determined view. And I remember we divided into three different sections and we looked at single transferable vote, proportional representation, we looked at the directly elected constituencies which the whites had in South Africa. And each of the three groups came out in favour of proportional representation with two important qualifications. The one was PR should be national and regional, to give the region some input. And the second was the understanding was our Constitutional Assembly that would draft the Constitution would be open to everybody, pure PR. But the second round of elections would be the mixed system like in Germany. Constituencies and proportional representation. You get the advantages of the election results correspond to the will of the people in terms of representation in Parliament. But you also get the advantage of your directly elected representatives. And you might be surprised to know there is nothing in the Constitution today that prevents that from happening. The Constitution says mainly proportional representation. And at the local government level, we have wards and we have PRs. We don’t have to change the Constitution to have directly elected MPs. And the van Zyl Slabbert Commission which is quite broadly based came up with some very interesting proposals that would avoid the group areas phenomenon of whites representing whites areas and blacks and Indians and Coloureds because we still have some had to pay for apartheid in this country – slightly bigger constituencies representing a number of people and getting the advantages of PR.

Now I mentioned that to say if we had followed the constituency process simply using the magistrates’ court areas as districts with 60% of the votes, the ANC would have got the 80% of the seats – it would have been a disaster. Because then people say this is not our Constitution, this is the ANC Constitution. We wanted everybody there in the constitution making process, every constitutional project has what an Argentinian Professor’s name I have forgotten at the moment…. has a central drama and it’s surprising that the central drama of the South African Constitution making project is not known. It wasn’t over united country versus federalism – that was important but that was relatively secondary. It was over an issue that had been raised already while we were in Lusaka.

Draft constitutions were already pouring in from all over the world and Oliver Tambo said well how do we respond? And all of them accepted that everybody would have a vote in South Africa and went in for the most convoluted arrangements to make sure the vote counted for nothing. And it was Oliver Tambo who came up with the idea we have a united South Africa that’s one country, no Bantustans. And if people are concerned that their rights are going to be disregarded in a way that they disregarded the rights of others, they get protections – not through group rights, not through having whites representing whites in parliament, Zulus – Zulus, not through having three presidents, not through cantons, through a bill of rights.  This was the Oliver Tambo projection. And he had been very taken with research done by Pallo Jordan who had pointed to that fact that the ANC traditionally in 1922 had supported a bill of rights. In African claims in 1943 – a bill of rights, the Freedom Charter in a way was a precursor of a bill of rights. And he said this is the answer. You protect people from abuse, not because they’re black, not because they’re white, not because they’re majority, not because they’re minority but because they’re human beings. We have to start looking at everybody as a human being, as a person with fundamental rights simply because you are born, you’re on this earth, you have rights. Now we take all this for granted. Now we point, and correctly, to the discrepancy between the ideals, the values, the basic foundations and the lived reality. But imagine if the foundations had been wrong. The foundations are right, the implementation needs a lot of shaking up. But we had to fight that battle that was the central drama. And that was why we had the breakdown in our constitutional negotiations – some other stories are being put out that Mandela got into a corner with business and some generals and a few others and they did a little deal and went to the lawyers and said give us the constitution. It took six years. People were dying. More people died in the years from 1990-1994 from political violence than in the decade from that 1910 to 1990. I remember when my book the Soft Vengeance of a Freedom Fighter was being launched in the University of Cape Town, a guy came down from Durban and he said ‘What’s this literature stuff? How can you speak about roses when our people are dying?’ He said just yesterday in KwaMashu, where he lived, some young ANC people came back at the end of the day, they were so happy they said, we got four of them, they only got two of us. He said it’s like a football match – killing and being killed – this was what was happening all the time, people being pushed off trains, it was called black on black violence, it was being stimulated. It was a third force and clearly people involved in government’s security agents getting the weapons out, inciting people. In fact, if we hadn’t had peace accords throughout the country, part of our story that needs to be better told, we wouldn’t have gotten a constitution. The breakdowns, at the time people saying breakdown because ANC is not getting on well with national parties, other subjective factors because those aspects played some kind of a role. A lot in the press about 66 and two thirds for changing the constitution or 70% – formally that was the point of disagreement. That wasn’t the reason for the breakdown. The breakdown was that we had two different concepts of South Africa; what the country would be like and how we would get there. And the enemy, who we were now calling the regime, we were softening it a little bit, was saying we are sitting round a table at Kempton Park and we must draft the constitution and we put it to a referendum afterwards. And the ANC is saying no, we have to have a constituent assembly elected by the whole nation, our first great act of self-determination will be to the choose the people who will decide what our constitution should be. And the regime said no but then majority rule we don’t stand a chance. And we came up with our response to that; we can agree in advance to certain basic principles that we want in the constitution – not for us, not for you – in the constitution for the people of South Africa, basic principles of democracy of an open society, of structures of government, of electoral systems. These are things that a country needs, we will agree to that in advance. And we will have proportional representation to make sure that everybody can get into Parliament, even the smallest groups. And the two thirds majority will be required and we will create a constitutional court to ensure that the principles are agreed to. And the regime wouldn’t agree to that. They presented their arguments. They said we are a nation of groups and we need three presidents and it would be Mandela on Monday, de Klerk on Tuesday, Buthelezi on Wednesday. I’m exaggerating… it would be six months, six months and six months. And they would have to agree on everything. Can you imagine? That consensus? They call that consociational democracy? The constitution would have been the enemy of change instead of the constitution being the doorway to change and transformation, the constitution would have been the barrier to change, it would have been a total disaster and that’s why there was the breakdown. The Oliver Tambo vision – full equal citizenship for everybody a bill of rights protecting everybody on the one hand and group rights on the other hand.


I’m going to give you a little personal story. Its 1992- it’s actually amusing looking at this audience because for some of you 1992 is like yesterday and some of you maybe weren’t even born then or if you were, you were a little pikkie. But it’s 1992 and we are meeting and it is the NEC – National Executive- I’m one of the members and right at the beginning of the meeting I propose and I ask this view, resolution that we vote that the ANC withdraws from the negotiations- now there is a bit of a stare, because Albie is seen as one of the pro-negotiations group, the pro-peace. Once I was speaking at a meeting, we consulted all the time at Fort Hare and I said we have two groups in  the ANC, those who see a trap in every suggestion made by the other side and those who see an opportunity and I was one of the seeing the opportunity. Seize the opportunity, make the most of it. Comrade Albie- we don’t have two sides in the ANC, we speak with one voice. So the next time I said we have to look at every proposal that’s made with two eyes- an opportunity and a trap at the same time. So I was seen as a strong pro-opportunity and I’m saying we’ve got to withdraw and all the people who didn’t like negotiations to begin with, they lining up now, cheering me on and the second person who seconds my motion is  Dullah Omar. He wasn’t against the constitution, but he was very worried and he supports me. And the point I’m making is the government is not serious, our political prisoners in ‘92 are still on Robben Island or in other prisons- they have gone on hunger strikes, we are letting them down. The IFP are matching through the streets with what they call cultural weapons, machetes, spears, and people are coming from the hostels and murdering people in neighbouring communities. So I said until these things stop, we withdraw from negotiations. We don’t say we withdrawing because of lack of bad faith, we say these are three easily achievable objectives as proof. Because it had been clear in our day-to-day negotiations that the other side were playing as they call it, hard ball. Kobie Kotze reintroducing capital punishment unilaterally, knowing the ANC is against it. A whole series of things like that and my experience as a lawyer tells me there are moments when you are negotiating with the other side and you are getting nowhere, you say: “see you in court” –  this was the equivalent. Immediately people rush up to the microphone, no we must carry on, we mustn’t lose this opportunity. Quite a few support me- tea break comes, lots of people crowding around me. I’m not used to being a popular leading figure in the ANC- I’m one of the quiet ones. Yeah we support you Comrade Albie, and Nelson Mandela says, Comrade Albie, you’ve raised a very important issue, I see that there are 15 people who have spoken against the resolution, eight in favour. Do you still insist on putting the resolution to a vote? And Dullah goes up, Comrade President, as a loyal member of the ANC, I accept the suggestion from the President. And I go up, I am a little cheekier than Dullah and I don’t, I say, I don’t insist, I don’t desist, the issue is being debated and discussed and the President said we’ve heard the point that you’ve made, but this is not the right time as he understood. And I accepted that. I could have insisted, we might have won the vote, but you get a sense of the people in charge of the whole process have a feeling for the dynamics. But when the Boipatong massacre happened, a couple of months later, it was so shocking, so violent, that was the moment to say we withdraw. There’s a lack of good faith on the other side. But not we withdrawing full stop, we withdraw until the political prisoners are released, until the marching of cultural weapons stops, until the hostels are ring fenced and in the meanwhile maybe quiet negotiations can continue. In any event, that was the thing, that was the moment and that battle was won – not at UWC – it was won in the streets of South Africa, it was rolling mass action. Hundreds of thousands of people went out into the streets, and they were disciplined, they were organised.

The world could see, South Africa could see, that millions of South Africans were supporting the position, the call of the ANC and that produced splits inside of the ranks of what we now started calling the government, so they were the enemy they became the regime they became the bloody government and that was the beginning of serious negotiations and the channel. And Cyril Ramaphosa, whom I might say was astonishingly good, extraordinary temperament, wise, thoughtful, hardworking, very collegial and with a sense of what’s going on and style it was an enormous pleasure. I am not part of his presidential team. I am simply recording a moment from our history. In the event so that was the one huge crisis.

I just mention there were six other crisis, the whole project could have been derailed. The second was the mutiny of Bophuthatswana against Mangope, the Bob army, AWB come rushing in they want to support Mangope. The army like the AWB like we all saw on television a white AWB person being shot in cold blood – it was not nice – by one of the soldiers, a turning point in South Africa. And it turns out now that there were something like forty thousand armed white soldiers inside the South African Defense Force, and outside on reserve waiting for the command from Constant Viljoen. If the AWB hadn’t gone in like that, who knows what might have happened. In a weird paradoxical way they did South Africa a favour by their clumsy intervention.

Not long afterwards, I’m not quite sure of the sequence, Chris Hani is assassinated. We loved Chris, I used to meet with him in the underground, the underground was on this side of Table Mountain in Cape Town. His wife Limpho and the children stayed with me in Maputo after commandos had gone to kill them in Maseru. Chris was really very close, a wonderful, wonderful person and we thought the country is going to explode now. But we got the election date. We said we must make this constitution making process serious so people can get the things that Chris was fighting for through the vote, focus on the vote, don’t be provoked by the racists who wanted to provoke a racial bloodbath.

We had a crisis over government of national unity, a famous polemic between Joe Slovo and Pallo Jordan and Joe who had argued no middle road in the 1960’s is now saying in effect we must take a middle road, in the sense of we are going to get the vote, we going to get democracy and then we can move the country forward. And the last traces left of group rights was in the seams of the government of national unity, for the first five years. Pallo said we might want a coalition government, if it’s good for the country but we can’t have it forced on us in the Constitution it’s a denial of self-determination from the very beginning. And we are meeting in the Johannesburg hotel and suddenly I think I’ve got the answer, I’ve got the answer, I put up my hand, a certain Jacob Zuma was the scribe and he took down comrade Albie I’ve seen your hand, and I am number 54. We’re given two minutes each this was really democracy in action that we see in those days. And I am calculating if we get through so many an hour, we have a break for lunch and we finish at six o’clock, I should be on by half-past five, I’ve got the answer, I’ve got the answer and then it comes five o’clock and Mandela announces – would the comrades mind there is an important delegation could we end a little earlier – just before me the guillotine comes down. It was the best thing. I was able to sleep.

I was the first on the agenda the next morning it was going 50/50. I was saying comrades we look at a government of national unity as a trap for us, but what if we see it as an opportunity? We go to the elections asking for a mandate from the people and the new government will then be bound by that mandate. And if we have De Klerk and the others in government we can control them more easily than if they are outside creating mayhem. And that’s for five years and after that it falls away. And instead of just going to the elections on the basis of what kind of Constitution do you want, we go to the electorate on a programme of reconstruction. So it should be the government of national unity and reconstruction and a certain Professor Kader Asmal gets up afterwards and says, would comrade Albie agree if its reconstruction and development programme (RDP) and I said of course. So ironically the RDP emerged out of that constitutional debate but our motivation at the time was to have an RDP and to have a government that is committed to reconstruction and development that was our thinking at the time.

I have mentioned these two examples not to say I was especially important but just to say I was there and I am revealing some secrets about my participation, other people can tell other stories of their participation, their role and many people made contributions and I might say not only in the ANC, there were people in other organisations – even people hostile to the ANC – that contributed. People contributed with their lives for freedom in this country from many organisations, the Unity Movement, in this part of the world, the AZAPO, PAC, John Harris from the Liberal Party was hanged, many many people, and individuals and groupings, and trade unionist and women’s groups and community organisations all contributed.

But I think the grouping I belonged to, we gave the main thrust. And looking back now, was it all in vain? So many people are so dismayed now. I think you increased the dismay, instead of standing on the achievements of the past we trample on the achievements of the past. We build on them. We got through very difficult times through common sense, through honesty, through integrity. I can’t use that word integrity often enough that was the core of everything, it was the core of Oliver Tambo. His integrity, not just somebody who didn’t steal or rob, not just negative qualities, the honesty of his endeavour, of his values, of his style of work, the last one to speak almost invariably, not a maneuverer and a manipulator, never interested in self-advancement but thoughtful and inspired and quiet and gentle all the way through.

Our generation what did we achieve? By and large we were the ones who brought down apartheid. And people who say nothing has changed have no idea of what it was like then.

You couldn’t have a meeting like this, you couldn’t walk in the streets the way you walk, you couldn’t protest, you couldn’t even fall. Imagine a fall movement you’re not even allowed to fall. Torture, banishment, books banned, everything banned. No vote, no rights, but also the daily insults. Separate queues, you can’t go to the beach. It wasn’t just those little incidents of a normal intimate ordinary life, it was everything, everywhere. We’re living in another country now. It wasn’t just bringing down apartheid, we had to reconstruct institutions of our country. We had 14 departments of education, we had 4 or 5 armies fighting each other. They all had to be brought together. We had to create whole new regions and municipalities integrating everybody. It’s a huge achievement. Like in India after independence they had to reconfigure the States to destroy the feudal power of the righteous of the others, try to deal with untouchability, another huge achievement. But our biggest achievement was to implant democracy, and the right to speak to protest and to vote. We used to be told: one man, one vote, once. Not for Africa. We’ve had elections now over a period of 20 years. In the last elections the ruling party lost power in major metropoles, with better or worse grace accepted. Maybe that’s the biggest achievement of the movement I once belonged to, accepting when the electorate lost its enthusiasm and support for the organisation, and accepting the outcome. We take it for granted that we have a lovely free press. If the students fall they can go to a newspaper reporter and report it and get information. People were banned before, newspapers were banned. Information just didn’t get out. People speak their minds in South Africa, openly, sometimes brilliantly, marvellously, sometimes insultingly, but speak out. Our elections are free and fair, we take it for granted. We take it for granted we have an independent judiciary. I am so, so, so proud of my colleagues of the Constitutional Court. I often mention that people say “do you ever go there”. I go there and I am thrilled to see how well they are doing and dismayed to see how well they are managing without me. And some people say they are over-reaching themselves, intruding on Parliament. And others say with much more conviction they intrude on Parliament when Parliament is not doing what the Constitution requires Parliament to do. And Parliament since the Nkandla decision has been revitalised. It wasn’t as though the court was imposing its own view on Parliament about how it should function, it was reminding Parliament what the Constitution makers and what the Constitution expected of them and suddenly there’s an energy, a brightness in Parliament that wasn’t there before. Now I’m mentioning these things not to say “what’s everybody complaining about? We’re living in a wonderful world, we’ve got a great constitution”, far from it! But I’m saying if we want further change, the way to get there is not to trample on the achievements of the past, but to utilise the opportunities that were gained, not to tear up the Constitution but to use the Constitution, to implement it. To use the rights we got under that Constitution, and experience elsewhere in Africa and Europe and other parts of the world. When you start tearing up the Constitution the answer is not more democracy, more rights, more homes, more freedom. The answer is more autocracy, more stealing, more opportunism, more self-seeing. Let me just end with a little personal story: 1994 after the first elections, I had retired, withdrawn from the NEC, we were getting our freedom. I hated this thought that I’m going to be waiting, will the phone ring? There were four of us lawyers on the NEC and only one Minister of Justice. Would it be Kader, would it Zola, would it be Albie? What? I spent my life fighting to worry about whether the phone will ring for me? And for the first time in my life I imagined, maybe I could be a judge. I’d never imagined it before. But to be a judge on the Constitutional Court defending the values we’ve been fighting for in this Constitution, suddenly that seemed wonderful. In any event I’m waiting now, and waiting, and waiting, and waiting, and waiting, and waiting, because there’s no answer we’ve had our interviews we still waiting. And Adelaide Tambo has just been elected to Parliament and she says, “Comrade Albie”, she invites me in this Adelaide way. She’s wearing a dress with this things at the side here and we having tea, and she orders cake, and I’m wondering what’s this all about and she says, “You know I’m in Parliament, I’m not used to being in Parliament, I need a speech writer, will you do it?” And I’ve been friendly with her and our children played together in London, and I said, Adelaide I’ll happily do it not because I’ll be paid but I won’t be your speech writer. You write your speech and I will help you with it, but it’s got to come from you. And I remember going to her office, she said I got all these green books and blue books and white books and I don’t know what to do with them, and I just cleared her desk. You don’t need this, you don’t need that, keep this, afterwards I went back to my own desk that was piled up with books. It might have been easier to clear her desk. Eventually she writes her own speech and she begins by saying, “It’s wonderful to be here in Parliament today, my only sadness is that my late husband Oliver”, and I’m reading and I’m thinking what’s she going to say? Didn’t become President of South Africa? She says, “My only sorrow is that my late husband Oliver Tambo didn’t live to vote in a Democratic South Africa.” Thank You.


Here is the link to the video of the event.


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25 April 2017

2017, Projects