Constitution Hill

Preserving our human rights
Johannesburg’s Constitution Hill remembers the horrors of the past, and yet embraces the promises of the future, marrying them with the reality of the present. It is home to the Constitutional Court, the birthplace of our democracy and protector of our human rights.

Constitution Hill is a human rights precinct and a world-class heritage tourist attraction incorporating cultural, historical, artistic, educational and recreational spaces that celebrate South Africa's ability to negotiate a peaceful, miraculous democracy out of bloody oppression.

It is also the home of the South African Constitutional Court, which was opened in March 2004. It is located between the Braamfontein and Hillbrow precincts in Johannesburg and retains important national and international heritage buildings, including the Old Fort prison complex of Johannesburg, and the Women's Prison.

With its four lookout towers, the Old Fort was once a place of fear and hopelessness. Built by the Transvaal government in 1899 as a bulwark to protect the city against the advancing British during the Anglo-Boer War, it was converted in 1904 into a jail that for most of the century would house a variety of prisoners of all races.

But it was made infamous as the prison where political prisoners were sent, including Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi, which led to it being dubbed the Robben Island of Johannesburg. This is why it occupies such an indelible place in the consciousness of the nation.

The museum section of Constitution Hill includes the Mandela Cell, which features a documentary of his incarceration and emotional return 40 years later.

Bricks from portions of the Old Fort that were demolished were used for the construction of the inner walls of the South African Constitutional Court. This is in stark contrast to the vibrant African art exhibited in the ultra-modern building.

The complex includes a coffee shop, bookshop, tourism office and exhibition spaces. Future plans include a hotel, a visitor's centre, a Nelson Mandela Centre for Memory, and various retail outlets.

For further information contact Constitution Hill on +27 (0) 11 381 3100 or e-mail them at visitorcentre@constitutionhill.org.za

Alternatively visit their website at www.constitutionhill.org.za

Consitution Hill is situated in the Johannesburg city centre's Braamfontein district. There are buses and taxis available in the area.

The Johannesburg central business district is close by, as well as the Newtown Cultural Precinct. Braamfontein is brimming with shopping options and the nearby Oriental Plaza is a great place to go bargain hunting.

There is a R22 entrance fee per person.

No more than half a day.

A hat and sunscreen during the summer months. And don't forget the camera.

The Johannesburg city centre has a bevy of accommodation establishments ranging from basic to 5-star luxury.

There is a small coffee shop on the premises. The Braamfontein area around Constitution Hill is packed with various refreshment options.

The onsite shop has a number of interesting books on Africa as well as some beautifully crafted curios.