Choose your country and language:

Africa

  • Global
  • Angola
  • Botswana
  • DRC
  • Ethiopia
  • Ghana
  • Kenya
  • Malawi
  • Mozambique
  • Namibia
  • Nigeria
  • South Africa
  • Tanzania
  • Uganda
  • Zambia
  • Zimbabwe

Americas

  • USA
  • Argentina
  • Brazil

Asia Pacific

  • China
  • India
  • Japan
  • South Korea
  • Australia

Europe

  • France
  • Germany
  • Italy
  • Netherlands
  • United Kingdom
Back

WWhile reading about history is a great way to learn about our past, walking the path of history brings the information to life. When you enter the Palace of Justice you hear the ghosts and echoes of a turbulent past, which allows you to understand where we have come from and where we are headed.  

Facing the northern façade of Church Square in Pretoria, the Palace of Justice tells a remarkable story of an unswerving anti-apartheid movement, the birth of the Freedom Charter as well as one of the world’s most iconic speeches to date.

Did You Know?
PPalace of Justice was refurbished to the tune of R30m in 2014.

MMore than 50 years ago, Nelson Mandela gave one of the most impassioned speeches of the 20th century while standing in the dock and staring death in the face during the Rivonia Treason Trial.

Palace of Justice

Food
When to visit
How to get here

FFourteen steps below the famous dock and in the depths of the Palace of Justice is an austere corridor leading to the holding cells where Madiba and his fellow accused were detained. 

Chief among them is a 5m x 7m room with a bare concrete floor, one narrow barred window, a wide ventilation shaft against one wall, and a heavy door with a turn handle and peephole. Coated in graffiti by generations of political prisoners, the musty, peeling walls bear messages of protest as well as the preamble to the Freedom Charter – a set of principles that laid the basis of the democratic dispensation which South Africans enjoy today. 

"There comes a time in the life of any nation where only two choices remain - whether to submit or fight," reads one of the messages. Another states: "My dream is to be free, one love." 

Next to a drawing of a hangman's noose is a vehement proclamation: "Detention or no detention, imprisonment or no imprisonment, death or no death, the struggle shall continue to re-vindicate the right of our people. Mayibuye I Africa. Amandla." 

In addition to the messages left behind, the walls carry a list of prisoners who have come through the spartan cell, including Tokyo Sexwale, Mosiuoa Lekota and Saths Cooper. 

DDating back to 1897, it’s no surprise the Palace of Justice is trove of South Africa’s colourful past. Four years after the then-President of the Transvaal Republic, Paul Kruger, laid the foundation stone, the palace – worth £115 260 – was open for business. However, shortly before it was used as the Transvaal Supreme Court, the incomplete palace was taken over by military authorities and turned into a hospital (known as Irish Hospital) for British troops during the Anglo-Boer (South African) War. 

Since then, the building has seen many historically significant trials enter its doors.

DDesigned by Dutch architect Sytze Wierda and built by John Munro, the palace is a monument to colonial opulence with an eclectic Wilhelmines style and Italianate influences. 

The quaint interior boasts British floor tiles, a Dutch stained-glass ceiling, ornate sconce lamps, carved dark wood dais for the judge and a jury box with red leather seats that have been vacant since the South African jury system was abolished in 1969.

Today, the Palace of Justice is used as the headquarters of the Gauteng High Court. At the forefront of legal transformation and excellence, the Gauteng High Court has hosted a number of epoch-making cases, such as Oscar Pistorius’ murder trial, the ruling of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir as well as a scathing judgment against former president Jacob Zuma.

Related Articles

Vibrant culture

Xhosa cuisine: the dishes and traditions

Vibrant culture
Xhosa cuisine: the dishes and traditions

Xhosa cuisine: the dishes and traditions

Vibrant culture

African ancestors

Vibrant culture
African ancestors

African ancestors continue to give Africans a shared and personal sense of self-affirmation, identity and unfettered belonging.

Vibrant culture

Zulu cuisine: the dishes and traditions

Vibrant culture
Zulu cuisine: the dishes and traditions

Zulu cuisine is still very much influenced by tradition and its celebration of history and a commitment to culture.

Vibrant culture

The vibrant history of Soweto

Vibrant culture
The vibrant history of Soweto

It was an act that had played out many times in South Africa: a forced removal. In 1904 bubonic plague broke out in the town centre, in an area known as Brickfields. Once the brick makers had been removed 25km south, to Klipspruit, the area was fenced and razed to the ground. And so Soweto was born.

Vibrant culture

Joburg’s most iconic buildings

Vibrant culture
Joburg’s most iconic buildings

The buildings in this ever-evolving city certainly reflect its rich heritage.

Vibrant culture

Traditional African food in South Africa

Vibrant culture
Traditional African food in South Africa

The food story of South Africa.

Bustling city life

The history of Joburg, City of Gold

Bustling city life
The history of Joburg, City of Gold

Johannesburg, the metropolis with the country’s tallest skyscrapers, was once just veld (bush), dotted with rocky outcrops, scrubby bush and a network of streams.

Vibrant culture

The culture of Basotho: history, people, clothing and food

Vibrant culture
The culture of Basotho: history, people, clothing and food

As a nation that boasts about its rich culture, the Basotho can trace their origins to the pre-historic age.

South Africa on social media

Copyright © 2019 South African Tourism
|Terms and conditions|Disclaimer|Privacy policy