Constitutional Court, South Africa

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This is an introduction to the Constitutional Court of South Africa, built on the site of a former prison to remind the justices that it is their responsibility that such human rights violations are permitted to occur "Never Again"!

Transcript of Constitutional Court, South Africa

  • 1.Constitution Hill
    Johannesburg, South Africa

2. Introduction
Constitution Hill is the site of the new South Africas Constitutional Court
the highest court in the land, where even the decisions of the young nations
High Court can be overturned.
The Constitutional Court is situated on land where South Africas brutal apartheid government once operated a prison. Among murderers and rapists were many political prisoners (people arrested for resisting apartheid).
3. 4. It is said that no one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails.
5. History
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.
The complex housed three notorious prisons: the Fort, where white inmates were kept; Section Four and Section Five, the "natives' jail", built in 1902; and the women's jail, added in 1909. Hundreds of thousands of people were jailed thereincluding 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.
7. 8. Prison Plans
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 'services' and the construction of a 'female section.' The tender to build the Women'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.
9. Audrey Brown, Director of Research, 2004
"Unlike the men'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 jailpunishment and subjugation. The architecture of the Women's Jail might be more subtle than that of a male prison in terms of power and control, but it is just as violent."
10. The Prison Register
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's Jail was 300 blacks, 30 "coloureds" (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.
11. 12. Sarah Sematlane, pass offender, 1981
When you arrived here you knew you were in prison. If you didnt 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 couldnt say anything. You would cry and shiver. She didnt care. She would just kick you. She just didnt care.
13. Section Two (Cell Two)
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.
14. 15. Bella Dlamini, prisoner, 1973
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 didnt know the duration of our sentence.
16. Maggie Resha, prisoner, 1959
The only time we had peace of mind was during the night and between one and two oclock 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.
17. MmagautaMolefe, prisoner, 1976
It was important that you didnt 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.
18. The Pass Book
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.
19. 20. The Shopping Bag
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 'white city' 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'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.
21. 22. NolundiNtamo, pass offender, 1980
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 dont see me, check for me at Number Four.
23. Panties
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, "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" (Sally Motlana, political prisoner, 1976). "Eventually, they gave them panties and shoes" (Nikiwe Deborah Matshoba, political prisoner, 1976).
24. 25. Joyce PilisoSeroke, prisoner, 1976
As the prisoners were polishing the floor, we saw that they didnt have panties. Somebody would be kneeling down to polish and the sanitary pad would just drop.
26. Vesta Smith, prisoner, 1976
We were outraged. It was so undignified. These women were also very uncomfortable. They kept putting their hands between their legs and walking funny.
27. Sanitary Pad
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.
28. 29. Bella Dlamini, prisoner, 1973
We were not allowed panties and we had to hold this pad between our legs. If it fell down, wed 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 storero