Constitution Hill, Johannesburg

Infamous century-old prison, now a center with the High Court, tours & exhibitions on local history.

The Constitution Hill precinct is located at 11 Kotze Street in Braamfontein, Johannesburg near the western end of the suburb of Hillbrow. Constitution Hill is the seat of the Constitutional Court of South Africa. The first court session in the new building at this location was held in February 2004.

The hill was formerly the site of a fort which was later used as a prison. The Old Fort Prison complex is known as Number Four. The original prison was built to house white male prisoners in 1892. The Old Fort was built around this prison by Paul Kruger from 1896 to 1899 to protect the South African Republic from the threat of British invasion. Later, 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 1907, a women’s section was added. An awaiting-trial block was constructed in the 1920s. Both political activists opposed to apartheid and common criminals were held at the prison. Mahatma Gandhi was imprisoned here in 1906, and striking white mineworkers in 1907, 1913 and 1922.

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. Joe Slovo, Bram Fischer, Albert Luthuli and Robert Sobukwe were also inmates.

The site housed prisoners until 1983, when it was closed. In 1995, the Constitutional Court justices began looking for a permanent location for the new Court.

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Kotze Street 11
Johannesburg 2000 GP ZA
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Saturday 10AM–3PM Sunday 10AM–3PM Monday 9AM–5PM Tuesday 9AM–5PM Wednesday 9AM–1PM Thursday 9AM–5PM Friday 9AM–5PM

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