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					                                       Constitution Hill Tour

Constitution Hill in Johannesburg is somewhat unique in the world. Previously the site of the
notorious Old Fort Prison Complex, today it is home to South Africa’s Constitutional Court. A visit
to Constitution Hill is fascinating, and very emotional; the prison still remains largely intact,
complete with barbed wire across its iron roof and concrete cells with high barred windows where
men used to sleep on the floor, elbows touching. It was here that thousands of ordinary people
were brutally punished during apartheid, many of whom were incarcerated simply for failing to
carry a pass. Yet overshadowing the prison yard is the Constitutional Court, an icon of democracy
and solidarity.

Constitution Hill serves as a stark reminder of what South Africa has been through, and how far it
has already come. The Old Fort was originally built in 1893 by President Paul Kruger for
protection against the uitlanders (foreigners), but was later developed into a prison to house white
prisoners. Between 1902 and 1904, the infamous No 4 – the dark heart of Constitution Hill – was
built to house black prisoners. Many anti-apartheid activists, among them Mahatma Gandhi and
Nobel Peace Prize winners Chief Albert Luthuli and Nelson Mandela, later spent time within its
walls. Visitors to No 4 can stand within the claustrophobic cell walls to get a small taste of what it
was like to be placed at the bottom of the racial hierarchy, as well as an understanding of how the
apartheid system made criminals of black men. Even the food offered them were the dregs of the
dregs. In the cell which held Nelson Mandela (the Mandela Cell) a film runs documenting his time
at the Old Fort and his emotional return to Constitution Hill some forty years later. The Old Fort
and No 4 finally were closed in 1982.

A tour of the old prison buildings and the Constitutional Court is a journey through South Africa’s
painful past, and also a celebration of its remarkable transition to democracy – a fitting and
inspirational tour for delegates examining the challenges and successes of democracy.

Itinerary

Delegates will be collected from their hotel after lunch on Wednesday, 7 March and driven to
Constitution Hill. On arrival, they will gather at the Awaiting Trial section and will then have an
opportunity to walk through the old prison, starting at the infamous No 4.

Delegates will then visit the following:
 The Mandela Cell, where delegates can watch a film documenting Mandela’s time at the Old
    Fort, and his emotional return to Constitution Hill some forty years later. The film is a poignant
    reminder of one man’s ability to inspire change in the political and moral structure of an entire
    society.
 The Women’s Jail, a handsome Victorian-style building, the grace of which belies the pain
    and suffering that occurred within. The Women's Jail, which was built in 1910, held political
    prisoners such as Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and Albertina Sisulu. Currently closed for
    renovation, the hoarding, which protects the building, has been transformed into a temporary
    exhibition that honours the contribution of women to the struggle for freedom in South Africa.
 We the People wall which runs the length of Constitution Square at the base of the Old Fort
    ramparts. Here delegates can leave a message. Past contributors include Nelson Mandela
    and other ex-prisoners, as well as ordinary South Africans.
 We the People – in the shade of the Constitution, is a photographic exhibition depicting
    the first We the People road trip which travelled across South Africa’s nine provinces in 2003.

To register for this tour, please contact Chantelle van Heerden on conference@elections.org.za
or +27 (0)12 428 5430

				
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