Constitution Hill<br />Johannesburg, South Africa<br />
Introduction<br />Constitution Hill is the site of the new South Africa’s Constitutional Court—<br />the highest court in ...
“It is said that no one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails.”<br />
History<br />In 1893 a high-security prison was built on the Braamfontein ridge in Johannesburg. A few years later, the bu...
THE WOMEN’S JAIL<br />
Prison Plans<br />The Johannesburg Prison was always intended to be temporary. From 1902, the Johannesburg City Council ha...
Audrey Brown, Director of Research, 2004<br />&quot;Unlike the men&apos;s section, which does not conceal its primary purp...
The Prison Register<br />The wardresses entered the name of every woman brought to this Jail in these large prison registe...
Sarah Sematlane, pass offender, 1981<br />“When you arrived here you knew you were in prison. If you didn’t talk when the ...
Section Two (Cell Two)<br />Section Two (Cell Two) was a large cell that held up to seventy sentenced prisoners. Most wome...
Bella Dlamini, prisoner, 1973<br />“I am crying now because I am sad and sorry and angry when I think about the suffering ...
Maggie Resha, prisoner, 1959<br />“The only time we had peace of mind was during the night and between one and two o’clock...
MmagautaMolefe, prisoner, 1976<br />“It was important that you didn’t give up. I was thirty days pregnant when they starte...
The Pass Book<br />Even before the era of apartheid, pass laws controlled where black people could live and work in South ...
The Shopping Bag<br />Black workers employed in Johannesburg were accommodated in sprawling townships built on the outskir...
NolundiNtamo, pass offender, 1980<br />“My grandmother had taught us to say goodbye every time we left home, because we ne...
Panties<br />As resistance against apartheid intensified from the 1950s onwards, increasing numbers of political prisoners...
Joyce PilisoSeroke, prisoner, 1976<br />“As the prisoners were polishing the floor, we saw that they didn’t have panties. ...
Vesta Smith, prisoner, 1976<br />“We were outraged. It was so undignified. These women were also very uncomfortable. They ...
Sanitary Pad<br />Prison regulations demeaned prisoners in every aspect of their lives. This was particularly so for black...
Bella Dlamini, prisoner, 1973<br />“We were not allowed panties and we had to hold this pad between our legs. If it fell d...
The Brushes<br />Unlike sentenced mail prisoners, sentenced women did not do work outside the Jail. They were locked up in...
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Freedom Charter, South Africa

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This is an introduction to the 1955 Freedom Charter signed by the Congress of the People in Kliptown, Soweto—the basis for the new South African constitution.

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Freedom Charter, South Africa

  1. 1. Constitution Hill<br />Johannesburg, South Africa<br />
  2. 2. Introduction<br />Constitution Hill is the site of the new South Africa’s Constitutional Court—<br />the highest court in the land, where even the decisions of the young nation’s <br />High Court can be overturned. <br />The Constitutional Court is situated on land where South Africa’s brutal apartheid government once operated a prison. Among murderers and rapists were many political prisoners (people arrested for resisting apartheid). <br />
  3. 3.
  4. 4. “It is said that no one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails.”<br />
  5. 5. History<br />In 1893 a high-security prison was built on the Braamfontein ridge in Johannesburg. A few years later, the building of a series of forts around it strengthened the establishment and gave it military capacity. That site became a landmark. It was known in some circles as the Johannesburg Fort and in others as Number Four, the name given to the frightening section in which black men were jailed. <br />The complex housed three notorious prisons: the Fort, where white inmates were kept; Section Four and Section Five, the &quot;natives&apos; jail&quot;, built in 1902; and the women&apos;s jail, added in 1909. Hundreds of thousands of people were jailed there—including famous figures such as Mahatma Gandhi and Albert Luthuli. Nelson Mandela paid the Fort a visit first as a young lawyer, then as a prisoner and finally as the president of South Africa. The prison was closed in 1983.<br />
  6. 6. THE WOMEN’S JAIL<br />
  7. 7.
  8. 8. Prison Plans<br />The Johannesburg Prison was always intended to be temporary. From 1902, the Johannesburg City Council had urged the government to relocate the prison because it did not want a jail in the middle of the city. The 1904 Commission of Inquiry reported that the prison was very poorly constructed with totally inadequate facilities. In 1909, the government allocated 27,500 pounds for improved &apos;services&apos; and the construction of a &apos;female section.&apos; The tender to build the Women&apos;s Jail was awarded in 1910. The central oval hall with individual cells fanning out from it is referred to as a panoptican or round-house design, which was the innovation of 18th-century British penal reformer Jeremy Bentham. Rather than confine prisoners in medieval dungeons, he said they should be under constant surveillance by the all-seeing eye of prison authorities.<br />
  9. 9. Audrey Brown, Director of Research, 2004<br />&quot;Unlike the men&apos;s section, which does not conceal its primary purposes, this space beguiles the eye and misleads the mind. The light-filled atrium and the cells radiating off it conceal the very essence of a jail—punishment and subjugation. The architecture of the Women&apos;s Jail might be more subtle than that of a male prison in terms of power and control, but it is just as violent.&quot;<br />
  10. 10. The Prison Register<br />The wardresses entered the name of every woman brought to this Jail in these large prison registers. Black women were entered in blue ink and white women were entered in red, clearly emphasizing the racial segregation that dominated life in the Jail. In the 1950s, the Jail could accommodate between 355 and 375 prisoners, most of whom were serving sentences of less than six months. In November 1965, the average daily number of prisoners in the Women&apos;s Jail was 300 blacks, 30 &quot;coloureds&quot; (born of mixed race), and 9 whites. Prisoners remember the registration process as frightening and violent with wardresses shouting commands and sometimes beating prisoners to keep order. After being entered into the register, prisoners were herded into a courtyard where they were showered, stripped, searched, and then taken to the cells. Black and white women were taken to separate sections of the Jail.<br />
  11. 11.
  12. 12. Sarah Sematlane, pass offender, 1981<br />“When you arrived here you knew you were in prison. If you didn’t talk when the white lady asked you something, she would shout, “Praatjong, praat’ (speak man, speak). Then she would take a bunch of keys and hit you with it. You couldn’t say anything. You would cry and shiver. She didn’t care. She would just kick you. She just didn’t care.”<br />
  13. 13. Section Two (Cell Two)<br />Section Two (Cell Two) was a large cell that held up to seventy sentenced prisoners. Most women were held for criminal offenses, but some sentenced political prisoners (people who resisted the apartheid regime) were also kept in these cells. The wardresses would use long-term sentenced prisoners to keep order in the cell. These cell bosses would use their power to extract favors from other prisoners.<br />
  14. 14.
  15. 15. Bella Dlamini, prisoner, 1973<br />“I am crying now because I am sad and sorry and angry when I think about the suffering inside these cells. There were bullies who wanted to force you to become angry and do something that increased your sentence, especially if you were about to be released. We used to hide our prison cards so that others didn’t know the duration of our sentence.”<br />
  16. 16. Maggie Resha, prisoner, 1959<br />“The only time we had peace of mind was during the night and between one and two o’clock in the afternoon when we were always locked up in our cells as the warders went for lunch. This hour seemed like a week away from the swearing and the insults one heard each hour of the day from the warders and from the long-term prisoners. The daily language was so foul that I felt sick of the place.”<br />
  17. 17. MmagautaMolefe, prisoner, 1976<br />“It was important that you didn’t give up. I was thirty days pregnant when they started interrogating me. At two months I miscarried but I was never taken for treatment. You had to be strong. I became violent to them because I knew they could do whatever. I was not going to go down begging on my knees because they wanted you to incriminate yourself and other people.”<br />
  18. 18. The Pass Book<br />Even before the era of apartheid, pass laws controlled where black people could live and work in South Africa. Between 1930 and 1940, the number of arrests for pass offences tripled. After 1948, the apartheid government extended the pass laws. The Native Laws Amendment Act and the misleadingly named Natives Abolition of Passes Act of 1952 stated that ‘disqualified’ people could not remain in an urban area for more than 72 hours without a pass and that ‘idle or undesirable natives’ could be expelled at any time. The government replaced the old passes with a new ninety-six page brown or green reference book. This book contained extensive information relating to employment, taxes and permits to work in the city and had to be carried by black people at all times. The new laws also forced black women to carry passes.<br />
  19. 19.
  20. 20. The Shopping Bag<br />Black workers employed in Johannesburg were accommodated in sprawling townships built on the outskirts of the city. Although the townships had very few facilities and conditions were bleak, black people created vibrant social worlds. Economic development, however, was severely constrained by apartheid laws and the small spaza shops in the townships were forced to charge higher prices than the large supermarkets in town. Black women went to the &apos;white city&apos; to trade or shop. The city was a dangerous place if you were black. Women going about their business shopping or trying to make a living by selling fruit or other food were vulnerable to arbitrary arrest. They were randomly accosted by the police, herded into kwela-kwela vans or marched on foot to the women&apos;s jail for transgressing petty apartheid laws. With babies on their backs, shopping bags in their hands and dreams in their hearts, their daily lives were regularly disrupted.<br />
  21. 21.
  22. 22. NolundiNtamo, pass offender, 1980<br />“My grandmother had taught us to say goodbye every time we left home, because we never knew if we would come back or not. We used to say, ‘If you don’t see me, check for me at Number Four.’” <br />
  23. 23. Panties<br />As resistance against apartheid intensified from the 1950s onwards, increasing numbers of political prisoners came to the Jail. When thirteen political prisoners were held here together after the Soweto uprising of 1976, they were able to use their collective strength to effect important changes. Because prisoners would not even be given panties, &quot;Winnie confronted the lieutenant herself, saying that these people were not animals, they were human beings, and even if they were in jail, they still needed their dignity&quot; (Sally Motlana, political prisoner, 1976). &quot;Eventually, they gave them panties and shoes&quot; (Nikiwe Deborah Matshoba, political prisoner, 1976).<br />
  24. 24.
  25. 25. Joyce PilisoSeroke, prisoner, 1976<br />“As the prisoners were polishing the floor, we saw that they didn’t have panties. Somebody would be kneeling down to polish and the sanitary pad would just drop.”<br />
  26. 26. Vesta Smith, prisoner, 1976<br />“We were outraged. It was so undignified. These women were also very uncomfortable. They kept putting their hands between their legs and walking funny.”<br />
  27. 27. Sanitary Pad<br />Prison regulations demeaned prisoners in every aspect of their lives. This was particularly so for black women. Until 1976, all black prisoners were forced to remove their shoes and their panties on admission to the Jail. Sentenced black prisoners were presented with formal uniforms and headscarves. They were instructed to look respectable and neat at all times. To humiliate prisoners, wardresses did not issue prison shoes or panties. Long-term black prisoners were issued three pads with loops. When the pads perished, they were issued with a further three. Short-term black prisoners were given two pads without loops. These had to be handed in after use each month. <br />
  28. 28.
  29. 29. Bella Dlamini, prisoner, 1973<br />“We were not allowed panties and we had to hold this pad between our legs. If it fell down, we’d get a klap(hit). But then we got advice from those who had been here for long to hold it with shoelaces that were stolen from the storerooms. Pads used to have loops and that’s where you inserted the shoelaces and tied them around your waist.”<br />
  30. 30. The Brushes<br />Unlike sentenced mail prisoners, sentenced women did not do work outside the Jail. They were locked up in communal cells all day and spent endless hours with nothing to do. Prisoners describe this as the most difficult part of their imprisonment. Some longer-term prisoners worked in the laundry. But mostly, the wardresses forced the women to do mindless, repetitive and physically damaging tasks as a way of keeping them busy. The women were given brushes and expected to scrub and shine the floors, working long hours on their unprotected knees.<br />
  31. 31.
  32. 32. Seipati More, prisoner, 1976<br />&quot;I lifted my head and the woman guarding us shouted at me, &apos;You were not supposed to move your head while cleaning.&apos; And she started to swear in Afrikaans and I told her my neck was tired. She said, &apos;I don&apos;t care about your neck. And you are cheeky, you even talk back.&apos; She made me stand against the wall for three hours. You weren&apos;t allowed to move.&quot;<br />
  33. 33. The Red Buckets<br />While prisoners won some rights over time, senseless violence and extreme forms of punishment continued to be part of everyday life at the Women&apos;s Jail. For minor misdemeanors, prisoners were deprived of their meals and made to stand next to the three red buckets in the large courtyard. From there, they could see and smell the meals that the other prisoners received. An even more cruel form of punishment was to confine prisoners to the isolation cells for three days with a diet of only rice water. Wardresses would also kick, slap, swear at and insult prisoners. They had access to batons if the situation demanded. At night, they carried these batons while they patrolled the Jail. Wardresses who were regularly outnumbered by frustrated and hostile prisoners often felt threatened. When they were confronted with extreme violence, male warders were called in to control the situation.<br />
  34. 34.
  35. 35. Isolation Cells<br />Isolation was the most extreme form of punishment in the Women’s Jail. Sentenced prisoners were isolated in four cells dedicated for this purpose. They were often kept here for longer than the three days stipulated by the law. In some cases, prisoners requested to be kept in the isolation cells to escape the unwelcome sexual attention from the cell bosses. The last two cells in the row of six, which were larger, held up to four prisoners. There was a shower and toilet at the back of the isolation section.<br />
  36. 36.
  37. 37. Terrorism Act<br />In the aftermath of the student uprising of 1976, political prisoners who were considered especially dangerous were arrested under the Terrorism Act and held in the isolation cells. These political prisoners were regularly taken to John Vorster Square for torture and interrogation by the security police.<br />
  38. 38. The Birthday Card<br />The women prisoners created an enduring sense of solidarity that sustained them through the prison experience. Organizations like the Black Sash, the South African Council of Churches and the Federation of South African Women provided craft materials for the awaiting-trial prisoners. The prisoners made cards and bookmarks in support of one another and for their families outside.<br />
  39. 39.
  40. 40. Fatima Meer, prisoner, 1976<br />&quot;Tomorrow we celebrate Jeannie&apos;s birthday. I have worked on a birthday card for days, trying to get the likeness of her sons, copied from a photograph, in a miniature portrait. I ordered a Pondo skirt and cake for her and these will be her gifts from us. The lieutenant has reluctantly agreed to allow the detainees from Winnie&apos;s Yard to join us briefly. We are all very excited.&quot;<br />
  41. 41. Jeannie Noel, prisoner, 1976<br />&quot;On my birthday I woke up early, lying on that filthy mattress. I was missing home. Next thing, all the doors opened and the ladies came dancing in with presents, wearing nighties. I was so surprised. I don&apos;t know how they got that skirt or how they managed to get the card around for everybody to sign. It was very emotional. I was so grateful that they made the day happy. . . . We were all buoyed up for several days but then the depression set in again.&quot; <br />
  42. 42. The Beret<br />Black and white wardresses worked together to maintain the prison system, but black wardresses were themselves subjected to racist and discriminatory prison regulations. Black wardresses were usually recruited from rural areas because rural women were perceived to be more compliant towards authority and brought with them a similar conservatism and fear of the city. This assured the authorities that any sense of solidarity that may be created between wardresses and prisoners would be limited. Black wardresses rarely challenged the discrimination they faced because they feared losing their jobs. Until 1979, white and black wardresses wore different uniforms. Black wardresses were required to wear berets at all times. White wardresses wore hats only when they were in uniform outside of the Jail.<br />
  43. 43.
  44. 44. Linda Xamisi, black wardress, 1974<br />&quot;We were made to wear berets because of the nature of our hair. They believed that because our hair is curly and short, it&apos;s falling hair. I felt bad but had to tolerate all of that because of the poverty back home and oppression because of apartheid. You knew that if you protested you were going to be dismissed.&quot;<br />
  45. 45. The Chair<br />Even in a system designed to dehumanize, both jailers and prisoners found moments of connection and compassion. Black wardresses say they were often treated like prisoners themselves and were pitied by the inmates over whom they were supposed to exert their authority. Prisoners saw how black wardresses walked with their hands behind their backs and curtsied to their white colleagues. They saw that white juniors resisted taking instructions from black sergeants. They saw the way in which white wardresses sat on chairs and called out instructions to black wardresses. They saw black wardresses standing all day.<br />
  46. 46.
  47. 47. Linda Xamesi, black wardress, 1974<br />&quot;You were not allowed to sit down as a black wardress. You had to stand all the time. We would stand from 7am to 7pm. We would get some assistance from political prisoners who were locked in isolation—people like Sis Debs, Winnie and others. They gave us chairs to sit on because they felt sympathy for us.&quot; <br />
  48. 48. THE MEN’S JAIL<br />
  49. 49.
  50. 50. Number Four<br />The original &quot;Native Jail&quot; was built on this site between 1902 and 1904 to house black male prisoners. Because of its location in the inner city, the Johannesburg City Council planned to move it to a more suitable location. However, it was only closed in 1983. From the beginning, the prison was overcrowded. At times, tents were erected in the yards to accommodate new prisoners. In 1953, Number Four had a capacity of 979 but it held 2207 prisoners. Cells designed to hold 30 prisoners often held up to 60. In contrast, white prisoners in the Old Fort were kept in smaller cells, usually on their own. <br />
  51. 51. Communal Cells<br />Overcrowding was a constant problem in Number Four. Communal cells often housed twice the number of prisoners they were designed for. While the cells may have appears chaotic, they were highly organized spaces run by cell bosses. Strict hierarchies divided the prisoners, whose social power and status determined where and how they slept as well as what they could and could not do in the cells.<br />
  52. 52.
  53. 53. Solitary Confinement<br />Number Four was designed to punish, not rehabilitate. For the prison to function, it relied on violence. Warders used violent to maintain control. Prisoners used violence to gain power. In prisons today there is often similar brutality. But people are no longer imprisoned, and exposed to such violence, simply because they are black. <br />
  54. 54.
  55. 55. Prisoners<br />Mahatma Gandhi was detained for leading the Passive Resistance Movement against pass laws for Asians and refusing to carry a pass. He was imprisoned at Number Four for seven months and ten days between 1908 and 1913. <br />
  56. 56.
  57. 57. Mohatma Gandhi, prisoner, 1908-1913<br />&quot;I have a call I must answer. I must deliver my message to my people. This humiliation has sunk too deep in me to remain without an outlet. I, at least, must act up to the light that has dawned on me.&quot;<br />
  58. 58. Prisoners<br />Jack Mabaso was detained for hand-bag snatching, robbery and murder. He was imprisoned at Number Four in August 1967 and repeatedly until 1983. <br />
  59. 59.
  60. 60. Jack Mabaso, prisoner, 1967…1983<br />&quot;When I first came in here I was just a petty thief stealing because I&apos;m hungry. But then I found myself in prison, and everything was corrupt, violent, so if you&apos;re going to be a survivor you become corrupt, violent yourself.&quot; <br />
  61. 61. Bedding<br />&quot;White prisoners have:<br />a divan (or two sleeping mats if floor space is limited)<br />a mattress and pillow<br />three blankets<br />four sheets<br />two pillow cases<br />and a bedspread.<br />Non-whites have:<br />two sleeping mats<br />and three blankets.&quot; <br />—Minister of Prisons, 1970<br />
  62. 62. Food<br />&quot;The whites ate as if they were at a restaurant where you look at the menu and choose what you want. Their menu was not the same every day. They ate better food than the owners of the country. For black people, there was nothing like that. They ate rubbish.”<br />—Martin &quot;Panyaza&quot; Shabangu, prison warder, 1973-1980<br />&quot;The tin plates . . . were unwashed and encrusted with layers of dried food accumulated over months, well mixed with rust.&quot; <br />—Alex La Guma, political prisoner, 1956<br />
  63. 63.
  64. 64. Health<br />The prison was a health hazard. Over the years, there were outbreaks of diseases like Enteric Fever and Typhoid. Hospital facilities were inadequate and doctors were present for only part of the day. <br />
  65. 65. Alex La Guma, prisoner, 1956<br />&quot;One of the reasons for my disease (Typhoid) is found in this jail. Filth. The mats are filthy, the blankets are filthy, the latrines are filthy, the food is filthy, the utensils are filthy, the convicts&apos; clothes are filthy. The latrines overflowed and made a stench.&quot;—Alex La Guma, political prisoner, 1956<br />
  66. 66. PremaNaidoo, prisoner, 1982<br />&quot;After we arrived in Number Four we did not have a shower for three or four months. Because of interaction of our lawyers, tackling the authorities, threatening them with an interdict, they allowed us out to shower. It was cold water, but at least it was a shower. It was quite a relief. Then we were allowed to shower about once a week.&quot; <br />
  67. 67. Resistance and Resilience<br />Prisoners found overt and subtle ways to resist the power of prison authorities and cell bosses. Political prisoners were usually arrested in groups and already had a strong sense of solidarity. Criminal prisoners mostly arrived as vulnerable individuals and to avoid being isolated or victimized by gangs, many resorted to joining them. Others found personal ways of coping. Every Sunday, prison officials carried out inspections of the communal cells in Number Four. The blanket sculpture depicted here was typical of the kind of objects that prisoners made for these Sunday parades. Prisoners with the most creatively decorated cell would win privileges for a week, such as cake or an extra slice of bread each day. <br />
  68. 68.
  69. 69. Isaac Luphindo, for the exhibition<br />&quot;These things remind us of the world outside the prison walls, the life we left behind and the things we long for.&quot; <br />
  70. 70. CONSTITUTIONAL COURT<br />
  71. 71. Never Again!<br />It is unusual for a court to be built on the site of a prison, yet the Constitutional Court&apos;s judges deliberately chose the Old Fort—for the very reason of its history. <br />The location of the complex is intended to remind the justices of the court of the enormity of their responsibility—that the atrocities committed under the rule of law under the previous regime shall be permitted to happen “Never Again.”<br />
  72. 72.
  73. 73.
  74. 74. Justice Under the Trees<br />The foyer of the Court is a spacious, light-filled area punctuated by slanting columns, an architectural metaphor for trees under which African villagers traditionally resolved their legal disputes. On the columns are mosaics: blue, green, orange and red. In keeping with this metaphor, the concrete roof has slots designed to create moving areas akin to dappled sunlight filtering through leaves. The roof&apos;s concrete beams are inscribed with the words &apos;&apos;human dignity, equality and freedom&apos;&apos; in samples of the handwriting of each of the judges incumbent during the building of the court. <br />
  75. 75.
  76. 76.
  77. 77. “A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones.”<br />
  78. 78. Credits<br />All text is derived from the placards accompanying the exhibits at the <br />Constitutional Court in Johannesburg, as well as from the Court’s website: <br />http://www.constitutionalcourt.org.za.<br />Photography is by Kimberly Vrudny. <br />

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