Constitution Hill a National Heritage Site

Constitution Hill: Visitors explore the isolation cells at Number Four.

Visitors explore the isolation cells at Number Four.

Constitution Hill has been declared a National Heritage Site, with the declaration made formal by its publication in the Government Gazette on 10 March.

The declaration includes the Old Fort, the Women’s Jail, the Constitutional Court, and the Number Four and Five prisons.

“We are very excited,” said Constitution Hill CEO Dawn Robertson. “This is official acknowledgement of Constitution Hill’s importance in the history of South Africa, and in its present. Constitution Hill is a symbol of how South Africa and South Africans have overcome a traumatic past.”

The South African Heritage Resources Agency’s declaration reads:

“The former prison and military fort at Constitution Hill bears testimony to over a hundred years of South Africa’s turbulent past of oppression, gross human rights violations and the extent that oppressive governments would go to in enforcing controls to suppress those opposing their policies. Prisoners incarcerated here included many world-renowned men and women who stood and fought against suppression. The wide range of prisoners included Prisoners of War during the South African War (or second Anglo Boer War), striking white mineworkers, protestors against South Africa joining the Allies in World War 1, to those opposing colonial and Apartheid oppressive laws such as Mahatma Ghandi, participants in the Defiance Campaigns and other anti pass protests, the 156 Treason Trial accused, women involved in Struggle and students from the Soweto Student Uprisings and thousands of men and women who transgressed petty apartheid laws. With the development of the Constitutional Court on the site after 1994 new meaning of hope and democracy was given to the site and juxtaposes the brutal past of the prison, contrasting the injustices with prevalence and protection of justice, a place where all freedoms were once stripped away to a place where human rights and freedoms are enshrined and protected.”

The Constitution Hill precinct is a working museum, with the Constitutional Court, the highest court in the land, often in session. The jails are all museums that host various permanent and temporary exhibitions.

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