Johannesburg

Constitution Hill

  Cnr Joubert St and Kotze St, Braamfontein ,   Braamfontein          +27 11 381 3100     18 Sep 2018
created 18 Nov 2013
The buildings of Constitution Hill in Braamfontein reveal the horrors of some of the darkest hours of 20th Century South Africa, while also showcasing the bright, optimistic future of the country enshrined in the modern Constitutional Court. The large complex is split into four parts: the Old Fort, the Women's Gaol, the Number 4 prison block and the Constitutional Court. In addition to the extensive permanent museum exhibits, the complex also hosts regular art and photography exhibitions and lectures, and has an impressive permanent art collection. Parking/transport: Parking available just off Constitution Square. Rea Vaya bus C-3 to Constitution Hill or a 15-minute walk from Park Station.

The Old Fort
The Old Fort at the centre of the Constitution Hill complex was built in 1893 as a fortress to protect Johannesburg from the threat of invasion and also to keep a watch over the miners flocking to the growing settlement. Following the end of the Anglo-Boer war the fort became a jail for white prisoners. One notable exception is Nelson Mandela who was briefly imprisoned here when he was arrested in 1962. His cell now forms the Mandela Cell exhibition. Make sure you take a walk around the fort ramparts for a fantastic view of the skyscrapers of the city centre and an enticing glimpse into the hustle and bustle of the chaotic neighbourhood of Hillbrow. Inside the old prison cells you can also visit the free installation It's A Fine Line which mixes archive footage of some of South Africa's most prominent anti-apartheid activists with artworks depicting the most critical moments in the country's history.

Women's Gaol
The grand-looking brick buildings of the old Women's Gaol were built in 1909 and held black and white female prisoners (and often their babies too) in separate sections. During apartheid many major political activists such as Albertina Sisulu, Ruth First and Winnie Madikizela-Mandela were imprisoned here in humiliating conditions and subjected to months of solitary confinement. The museum includes many moving testimonies from former black female prisoners, detailing their struggles behind bars and the shockingly absurd reasons for their arrests.

Number 4
The notorious Number 4 prison block is not for the faint-hearted and wandering its bleak yards and dank cells is at times a harrowing experience. However, as Nelson Mandela himself said it is also an essential one for “no one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails.” Number 4 was used from 1904 until 1983 as a prison for 'native men' whose crimes ranged from political activism and communist party membership to murder, robbery, petty crime and, most commonly, the infringement of the racist passbook laws. Prisoners were held in desperately over-crowded and unsanitary conditions and were regularly starved, beaten and brutalised. The whole block is left pretty much as it was when prisoners were last incarcerated here and videos are projected onto the walls inside the cells providing first-hand testimonies of the brutality of life in Number 4. At the far end of the prison, looked over by a watch tower and hemmed in by rusting barbed wire, are the disturbing isolation cells which are said to be haunted. Before leaving don't miss the humbling exhibit on Mahatma Gandhi, who was imprisoned here in 1906 for his political activism.

Constitutional Court
The Constitutional Court was opened in 2003 and built using bricks from the old awaiting-trial prison block. The bright, inviting and modern building is filled with hundreds of South African paintings and sculptures which alone are worth a visit. The Court's main function is to uphold the principles of freedom and equality enshrined in South Africa's hard-won constitution, making this the highest court in the country. All interested visitors are allowed to attend court hearings and visit the court chamber.

City Sightseeing bus
Constitution Hill is the starting point for the open-top hop-on hop-off City Sightseeing bus Red City tour which makes stops at all the major museums in downtown Joburg such as SAB World of Beer and Origins Centre, as well as the Apartheid Museum in south Joburg. At Constitution Hill you can also join the City Sightseeing bus Green route tour which travels to Rosebank via Joburg Zoo, Zoo Lake and the Ditsong Museum of Military History.

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Website

Email

info@constitutionhill.org.za

Open

Open 09:00–17:00.
Tours leave on the hour, every hour. Last tours leave at 16:00.

Price/Additional Info

Admission to museum areas R80, kids R40, students R45, pensioners R55 (includes optional one hour guided tour). Admission and a two hour guided tour R100, kids R65, students, pensioners R70. Discounts are available for groups and visitors using the the City Sightseeing red bus. Tickets can be booked online. Secure parking is available at the car park inside the centre of Constitution Hill (entrance off Joubert Street). Special themed tours such as the Walk with Madiba tour or the Art and Justice tour must be booked in advance (groups of minimum 10 people).

Events at this venue

Sunday Dec 30 …
Afropunk
15:00
Sunset Picnic on the Ramparts

Associated Venues

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