“Today people are not oppressed by pass-laws, kids can travel to the city and walk in the city and never imagine apartheid in the city.”
Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) co-founder Zackie Achmat, who has battled three “oppressive regimes” over a 40-year period – first apartheid, then Aids denialism under then-president Thabo Mbeki, and now state capture under Zuma – believes that “in many ways life [today] is measurably better”.
He smiles while looking over at the maroon-coloured Victorian building behind him, across the street.
Pointing, Achmat explains: “I lived across the road there in an underground fashion with my former boyfriend – if I’d been caught [during apartheid] I could’ve been charged [under the] Group Areas Act.
“Across the road, there at Long Street Café there used to be a bookshop – brilliant bookshop – and [there was] a whorehouse above, which was fantastic.
“[But] this wasn’t a fun place to sit in – Long Street was dead. Pieter Dirk Uys wrote a play called Lang Straat and it went: ‘Lang Straat, Lang Straat, na middernag, bang straat (Long Street, Long Street, after midnight, fear street)’.
“[Today] people are not oppressed by pass-laws, kids can travel to the city and walk in the city and never imagine apartheid in the city.”
While speaking about the potential of the Constitution to “revolutionise property rights”, Achmat is interrupted by a delivery truck that rushes past.
Staring at the black, tarred road, Achmat says: “On the other hand, I think the only major pessimistic thing in my life or for us in politics needs to be [an] understanding [of] what we’re doing to the environment and the planet and that’s a tragic thing.”
What section of the Constitution has had the most impact on your life? Share your thoughts with us by uploading them here or say something on social media using the hashtag #ArchForArch or Whatsapp us on 078 293 2059.