Constitutional Hill

This gallery really consists of 4 separate areas because there are really 4 distinct places to see at Constitutional Hill. Starting with the Court, then moving onto The Fort, Number 4 Jail and finally the Womens Jail.

“The Constitutional Court is the home of the Constitution, the highest court in the land. Like the Constitution itself, the court was designed to be open, accessible and transparent. The court is built around the remaining stairwells of the old awaiting trail block. The foyer of the court is a light filled area populated by slanting columns, an architectural metaphor for trees under which the African villagers traditionally congregate to discuss matters of social importance to the elders. Any member of the public may attend court hearings, or may enter the building to view the many individually commissioned artworks on display…”

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The Flame of Democracy
The Flame of Democracy
Shadows
Shadows
Constitutional Court foyer
Constitutional Court
foyer
Unveiling Plaque
Unveiling Plaque
Entrance Doors
Entrance Doors
1910 Constitution
1910 Constitution
Constitution Court Building
Constitution Court
Building
Constitution Court Interior
Constitution Court
Interior
Interior artwork
Interior artwork

The ramparts of the old Fort were built by Paul Kruger from 1893 to protect the Zuid Afrikaanse Republiek (ZAR) from the threat of British invasion, and to keep watch over miners flocking to the village below. Reverting to a jail after the Anglo Boer War, all male prisoners passed through the foreboding tunnel beneath the ramparts, but only whites were held in the fort itself. The luckless African male prisoners being held at the “Number Four” jail not too far away. The sloping entrance tunnel was the last view that many prisoners would have of the outside world before being taken into the buildings behind the earthen ramparts.The rooms under the ramparts were used as magazines, stores and sleeping quarters but not for cells.

Interior gate facade
Interior gate facade
Heritage Plaques
Heritage Plaques
Front entrance
Front entrance
Inner courtyard
Inner courtyard
The ramparts
The ramparts
Under the Ramparts
Under the Ramparts
Under the Ramparts
Under the Ramparts
Interior Buildings
Interior Buildings
Rampart tunnel
Rampart tunnel

Number Four is the jail where thousands of male African prisoners were incarcerated and brutalised, many of whom were guilty of minor infringements of ridiculous petty legislation, others for political views, and some were hardened criminals.

Interior Courtyard
Interior Courtyard
Ablutions
Ablutions
Cellblock
Cellblock
Cell door
Cell door
Restraints
Restraints
Solitary
Solitary
Visitors entrance
Visitors entrance
Solitary gate
Solitary gate
Interior yard
Interior yard
Cell interior
Communal Cell interior
Solitary cell interior
Solitary cell interior
Communal Cell interior
Communal Cell interior

The Womens Jail was built in 1909, and is next to the old fort. Many of the women held here were guilty of minor infringements of ridiculous petty legislation, others for political views. The jail was segregated by race and based on a panopticon design where cell blocks radiated off a central hub.

Street Entrance
Street Entrance
Ground floor hall
Ground floor hall
1st Floor hall
1st Floor hall
Cellblock
Cellblock
Cell interior
Cell interior
Cell door
Cell door
Interior offices
Interior offices
Cell block
Cellblock
Cell block
Cellblock

© DRW 2012-2018. Created 15/03/2012. Moved to blog 14/09/2014

The Hector Pieterson Monument and Museum, Soweto

The Hector Zolile Pieterson  (also spelt Petersen or Pietersen) Museum, was opened on 16 June 2002 near the place where he was shot in Orlando West, Soweto. The museum is funded by the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism and the Johannesburg City Council and  it has become a major attraction for anybody visiting Soweto.

The whole tragedy started when WC Ackerman, Southern Transvaal Regional Director of Education which stated that in Std 5 and forms 1 and 2; General Science and Practical subjects should be taught in English but Mathematics /Arithmetic and Social Studies should be taught in Afrikaans. From then onwards a number of schools were hit by unrest and the path had been laid down that would culminate in the the protest march against the use of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction took place in Soweto. (Information booklet by the Hector Pieterson Museum)

Invariably students and police clashed and the Soweto Uprising followed. 

The first schoolboy killed by the police was Hastings Ndlovu (1961-16/06/1976).

Unfortunately, the day I was there an election rally was in progress, and the museum was closed. But I managed to get back there on 28 April and take a look around. Its difficult to get any sense of the happening of 16 June 1976 because so many changes have been made in the area.

The Museum Precinct has an aura about it that is difficult to describe, at times I felt that maybe this was not the place to be. And it was not because of the people around me, but because I have no real comprehension of the events that led to this moment in history, and after all I was on the wrong side.

The most jarring note in the Museum is the courtyard with the plaques strewn about it. Those were real people once, and some of them do not even have names.

How many were bystanders who were caught up in the events? Were there even bystanders?

The iconic photograph that symbolises the 16 June uprising is by Sam Nzima, photographer The World newspaper in Johannesburg. It shows the dying Hector carried by a fellow student, Hector’s sister is running alongside.  The line of grass connects the entrance of the museum  where Hector Pieterson was shot.

The plaque for Hector. Pieterson (also spelt Petersen or Pietersen). Cut off in life.
The plaque for Hector. Pieterson (also spelt Petersen or Pietersen). Cut off in life.

Hector Pieterson is buried in Avalon Cemetery and I am happy to say that I found his grave, but I was unable to find the grave of Hastings Ndlovu who supposedly was the first one killed on that fateful day. It was a strange moment to stand in front of that grave and a profound sadness overcame me. I was not able to say what I wanted to because I did not know what to say.

This lonely grave was of one of the people who changed South Africa, and he was probably unaware of what was to happen after this event. It was the first step in a long staircase punctuated by violence, death and destruction, culminating in the 1994 elections. What would Hector Pieterson say about the mess that the education system is now? I do not have an answer.

The grave of Hector Pieterson
The grave of Hector Pieterson

The museum may be found at the intersection of Pela Main Road and Kumalo Main Road. Or Google Earth co-ordinates  S 26°14’4.96″,  E  27°54’30.10″. Do check the opening times and prices for entry into the museum.

© DRW 2011-2018. Created 26/042011. Updated 28/04/2011. Moved to blog 21/01/2014. Added information 30/03/2017