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Constitution Hill Review
Overlooking Jo'burg's inner city and suburbs, Constitution Hill houses the Constitutional Court, set up in 1994 with the birth of democracy, as well as the austere Old Fort Prison Complex (also called Number Four), where thousands of political prisoners were incarcerated, including South African Nobel Peace laureates Albert Luthuli and Nelson Mandela, and iconic Indian leader Mahatma Gandhi. The court decides on the most important cases relating to human rights, much like the Supreme Court in the United States. Exhibits in the visitor center portray the country's journey to democracy. You can walk along the prison ramparts (built in the 1890s), read messages on the We the People Wall (and add your own), or view the court itself, in which large, slanting columns represent the trees under which African villagers traditionally met to discuss matters of importance. If the court isn't in session, you can walk right into the courtroom, where many of the country's landmark legal decisions have been made in recent years and where the 11 chairs of the justices are each covered in a different cowhide, representing their individuality. A small but good shop carries interesting titles about South African history. Group tours of the Old Fort Prison Complex are given every hour on the hour from 9 to 4 and include a visit to the Women's Jail, where there are photographs and exhibits of how women were treated in the prison system and how they contributed to the struggle against apartheid. You can also take a private tour, which departs at any time.
- Address: Joubert and Kotze Sts., entrance on Sam Hancock St., Braamfontein, Johannesburg, 2001
- Phone: 011/381-3100
- Cost: Court free; Old Fort group tour R22, private tour R40
- Hours: Court daily 9--5; last entry at 4. Old Fort group tours daily on the hr, 9--4; private tours by appointment
- Website: www.constitutionhill.org.za
- Location: Downtown
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