Constitution Hill Tour
Old Fort/Constitution Hill – Constitutional Court
The Old Fort Complex/Museum, Constitution Hill. Number Four Prison, awaiting trail block, Nelson Mandela cell. Tour South Africa’s Constitutional Court and Gandhi Exhibition.
Daily Private Tours, 7 days a week.
Old Fort Prison and the Constitutional Court Complex
Johannesburg’s “Robben Island”
Daily Constitution hill tours available – 7 days a week with Ekala Eco Tours.
Our tours are Private only (not mixed groups). Constitution Hill is normally included in our Johannesburg Tours. However can be included in most local tours and is an important part of both Ekala’s Freedom Struggle route tour and the Mahatma Gandhi Johannesburg tour.
Ekala’s Johannesburg (including Soweto) day tours are generally structured to spend time at Constitution Hill.
What Ekala does in such a brief tour is that we take you through the facility in about an hour. Giving our clients a full historical tour of the facitly – but also include a fully guided tour through the Constitution Court, covering all important cases that have been through the court and those waiting to be heard. Since you are accompanied by a guide – generally would cover more in this hour than most tourists could ever get out of the facility.
As such does not have you wasting your valuable time wondering around with little to no understanding of the court or the facility as a whole.
To be able to structure a tour around your requirements and time available – we need to be supplied with clear timing and collection and drop off address – hotel name. If one of the points is the airport – I need full flight details. Once I have these it will be possible to quote/advise and structure a day or multi day package around your requirements/timing.
One of the most important Historical sites in South Africa.
Constitution Hill – has witnessed it all: South Africa’s history of injustice, detention and imprisonment while witnessing democracy at work. People that passed through the Fort complex include – Mahatma Gandhi, Albert Luthuli, Walter Sisulu, Joe Slovo, Ahmed Kathrada, treason trialist’s of the late 1950s (including Nelson Mandela) and children involved in the 1976 Soweto uprising and thousands others during the apartheid struggle.
Constitution Hill – learn about injustices in South Africa’s turbulent past, the extraordinary transition to democracy and the process by which freedom was won and through the constitution, is now protected.
Constitution Hill – Home to South Africa’s Constitutional Court since 2004 and one of Johannesburg’s most historic sites. The ramparts around the Old Fort offer a vantage point over Johannesburg. Originally built by Boer President, Paul Kruger in the late nineteenth century. South Africa’s most important legacy from an apartheid history perspective.
Constitution Hill – Historical asset, encapsulating the development of the South African Constitution. Of the best known and most progressive Constitutions in the world. A platform for passing the legacy of the country’s struggle for freedom on to future generations.
Constitution Hill – tour can include a tour through number 4 prison including the Mahatma Gandhi exhibition, a walk on the ramparts overlooking the Johannesburg CBD, tour of Nelson Mandela cell within the old fort and a visit inside the Constitution court.
Old Fort of the Zuid Afrikaanse Republiek (ZAR)
Ramparts built by Paul Kruger between 1896 and 1899 to protect the Zuid Afrikaanse Republiek (ZAR) from the threat of invasion from the British. Also used to keep an eye on the miners flocking into the village (to become Johannesburg) below. Reverted to a prison after the South African war. Only white male prisoners were held in the old fort with one notable exception, Nelson Mandela who was given a bed in what was then the hospital section.
Notorious Black Males only Prison – Number 4
Number Four Prison
On arrival: During the apartheid era, police would arrive numerous times a day with prisoners. Prisoners were processed and personal details were recorded including finger prints and assigned with a number.
Searches: Prisoners would be strip searched; hosed down, summer or winter, and had to perform the dehumanizing “tausa” for the prison warders to see items that may be hidden in their rectum.
Food: In number four, food consisted of no more than a meatless porridge of mealies (corn) and beans with a plastic like texture.
Toilets and Showers: There were only eight, eastern style toilets to be used in number four. These toilets offered no privacy and were also in close proximity to the food area. Showers were allowed once a week but prisoners were often denied this for months.
Communal Cells: Overcrowded, dirty and badly ventilated cells lit by a small window only, was only a part of the brutal detention conditions. Ironically as authorities tried to break prisoners down, these communal cells became an area to build courage and discuss resistance including singing resistance songs to entertain, comfort and maintain solidarity. This was also used to defy the authorities.
Isolation cells – Emakhulukhuthu: Prisoners kept in the “deep dark hole” for up to 30 days, with only one hour per day outside. However, some prisoners spent many months in these cells on a diet of rice water.
Diseases: Including typhoid and enteric fever were commonplace. Overcrowding with filthy food, bedding, clothes and sanitary conditions created perfect conditions for diseases.
The Women’s Prison
A Victorian brick building, Built in 1910, held both black and white female prisoners, however in separate sections. The vast majority of inmates were incarcerated here for pass offences or illegal beer brewing. Women were striped of not only their underclothes, but also their dignity.
Constitution Hill site of the old fort, which was built on the Braamfontein ridge by Paul Kruger in 1893 for military use and was later used as a prison. The Fort is one of the oldest buildings in Johannesburg. The original prison was built to house white male prisoners in 1892. Boer military leaders of the Anglo-Boer War were imprisoned here by the British.
The Old Fort Prison was later extended to include “native” cells, called Section 4 and Section 5, and in 1910 a women’s section was added. The Old Fort complex is now known as Number Four. An awaiting-trial block was constructed in the 1920s. Both political activists opposed to apartheid and common criminals were held at the prison.
Under the apartheid government, only whites were held in the Old Fort itself, except for Nelson Mandela, who was given a bed in the hospital section when he was as an awaiting-trial prisoner in 1962 prior to the Rivonia Trial. Mahatma Gandhi, Joe Slovo, Bram Fischer, Albert Luthuli and Robert Sobukwe were imprisoned here.
Nelson Mandela entered the prison on Constitution Hill as Lawyer, then Prisoner and later as President of South Africa.
Mahatma Gandhi was the first to apply the concept of non-violent Civil disobedience in South Africa.This saw him face the hard realities of racial discrimination in South Africa. A special exhibit/museum is included within number 4 prison around Mahatma Gandhi and his stay at the Old Fort/Constitution Hill
Prisoners where often sent to Robben island or Pretoria Central Prison after sentencing. The site housed prisoners until 1983, when it was closed. The complex attained national heritage status after 1994. In 1995, the Constitutional Court justices began looking for a permanent location for the new Court. Constitution Hill was chosen as a fitting location for the Constitutional Court.
The Prison Today
The prison and old fort has been transformed into a living museum, revealing individual experiences with voices, sounds and images allowing the visitor a glimpse of how punishment was inflicted, physically and mentally, and the efforts made my inmates to overcome the power of suppression and the prison conditions.
The exhibition, based on extensive research with ex prisoners, tells a story of those incarcerated there and allows the visitor a view into the apartheid system through the eyes of a black prisoner. View videos of the experiences of former prisoners returning to the jail.
From the ramparts that surround the fort, you get an excellent view of the surrounding areas, including Hillbrow, the downtown skyscrapers, Braamfontein and the green suburbs of Northern Johannesburg.
Large outdoor square in the heart of Constitution Hill, with its two remaining awaiting trail block stair wells as a reminder of the past.
Great African steps
Built from bricks from he demolished awaiting trial block. Walk between the legacy of the past on one side, the notorious number 4 prison and the Constitution Court on the other.
The Experience for the visitor
This prison and old fort is as important as Robben Island both for the international visitor and the South African people as a nation. “No one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails.” extract from Nelson Mandela’s book “Long Walk to Freedom”
The Constitutional Court: South Africa’s Highest Court.
With one of the most progressive constitutions in the world, the court justices needed a fitting site for South Africa’s constitutional court. The prison had fallen into a dilapidated state, but provided a site with rich cultural history. The court building itself was built using bricks from the demolished awaiting-trial wing of the former prison; “taking from the past to build the future”.
The development perfectly represents inner Johannesburg city regeneration, contributing to socioeconomic upliftment. This once loathed place now stands as an historical landmark and monument to South Africa’s hard earned democracy promoting reconciliation and advancing human rights. Transparent glass lining the wall symbolizes transparency of the court and public seating is at same level as that of judges, representing the equality of the court and constitution.
Witness democracy at work – Constitutional Court.
Contemporary artworks are on permanent display in the court building that is open to the public. The public is also welcome to attend hearings in the Constitution Court.
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