BACKGROUND ON THE
National Heritage Site declaration: 10 March 2017
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.