A living museum in the heart of Johannesburg, Constitution Hill was built on the 100-acre site of a century-old prison complex, where the leaders of every major South African liberation group—from Nelson Mandela to Mahatma Gandhi—were once detained. Today, visitors can tour the area and its many attractions to learn more about South Africa’s turbulent past and journey to democracy.
Start your visit at the Constitutional Court (the highest in the country), where you can witness a real case as well as an exceptional collection of South African artwork. Next, head to the Old Fort. One of Johannesburg’s oldest buildings, it served as a “whites only” jail during apartheid, with Nelson Mandela as its only black prisoner (his cell now features an exhibition detailing the time he spent here and on Robben Island). The Number Four building, on the other hand, was reserved for black men, and once housed prisoners like Mahatma Gandhi, Robert Sobukwe, and the students of the 1976 Soweto Uprising. In this same complex, you can also visit the Women’s Jail, where female political activists like Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, Albertina Sisulu, and Fatima Meer were held.
The court is housed in a beautiful building atop Constitution Hill. Outside is the old jail, the new Flame of Democracy, and the even newer bust of Ghandi (he was jailed here 4 times). Inside, the art is incredible. Worth the trip just for it.
Flame Of Democracy
Marking the 15th year of the Constitution.
Mahatma Ghandi Bust
Just unveiled two days ago. Ghandi had four stints in jail here between 1908 and 1913.
Constitution Hill, Supreme Court
The 27 clauses of South African’s constitution are carved into these massive, gorgeous doors leading in to the court. Inside the foyer, the curated art collection is on par with museum-quality standards.
October 10, morning: Speaker Sessions at Constitution Hill
Hear from Edwin Cameron, one of South Africa’s Constitutional Court judges, and the first senior official in the country to declare publicly that he was living with HIV/AIDS. Constitution Hill is the site of the nation’s highest courts as well as the Old Fort Prison complex, where South African citizens such as Gandhi and Mandela were once held. The beautiful court building also showcases some extraordinary South African art, and the collection’s curator, Stacey Vorster, will be on hand to explain the significance of the work. We’ll also hear talks from leading authorities in current issues such as education, politics, and employment. Giles Gillette and Anthony Farr (education activists), Nic Dawes (Editor in Chief of the progressive Mail & Guardian newspaper), and Kuben Naidoo (head secretariat of the National Planning Committee) will lead the talks.
Prison Cell Visit to the Apartheid era's most notorious prison
Constitution Hill on a bright summers’s day with sweeping views across Johannebsburg from it’s position atop a ridge in the subub of Braamfontein belies it’s cruel history. However there is no mistaking the door frame wide cells that housed inter alia Nelson Mandela for a period of time. Despite the heat I felt chilled. Educational & humbling this is an instructive experience - especially given that South Africa’s famed Constitution Court now resides on the same lot. Talk about progress!