JHB court officials commemorate Women’s Day

Johannesburg High Court officials joined the country in celebrating Women’s Day on 8 August 2014. They took a walk to the Constitution Hill and toured the women’s prison cells and the history behind the monument site.

Over 30 officials participated in the 45 minute walk with the desire to know about the history of Constitutional Hill and how women inmates such as Ms Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, Albertina Sisulu and many more, have gone through in the fight against liberation during Apartheid.
Officials were taken through to the female isolation and maternity cells, where “problematic” inmates were kept for a maximum of 24 hours. During their period in isolation, inmates would be tortured by wardens.

A tour guide explained how female prisons were overcrowded and inmates had no privacy as they would bath and relieve themselves in the presence of other fellow inmates.

However, the inmates found refuge in a tranquil garden were they would have private conversations and get to know each other without any disturbances. The inmates had very little to do in their spare time which they resulted in collecting and moving small stones from one point to another just to pass time.

One of the officials, Ms Puseletso Rabotapi, said the tour to the women’s prison was very emotional and yet educational. “I could not imagine being kept a prisoner in those unhygienic cells and ill-treated the way that Mam’ Winnie Mandela and Albertina Sisulu were subjected to,” remarked Ms Rabotapi.

“Having the opportunity to tour the Constitution Hill is an honour. Now I have a clear understanding of the hardships female inmates experienced. It goes to show how strong and patient women are naturally,” she added. Another official, Ms Elizabeth Mabotha was shocked the manner in which the inmates were treated and the overcrowding in cells during those times. “I feel that it was very unfair that political prisoners who committed no serious crime but fighting for our democracy were placed in the same cells and those charged with theft, murder and rape,” she expressed.

In remembrance of those inmates, the officials each took two small stones and threw them in a plant pot as a symbol to honour great women who have paved a way for the emancipation of women in the democratic South Africa.


Published: 13 Aug 2014