Writing History on Wall of Damp Palace of Justice Cell

Article excerpt


PRETORIA: Tucked away in a corner of the dark basements of the Palace of Justice is a small cell. At first glance it is dingy. But it has held murderers and a future president and it was here where a significant piece of South Africa’s history unfolded more than 40 years ago.

On entering this damp, un-friendly looking room, with concrete floors and only a tiny window, one does not at first realise the full impact of what has happened here.

Looking at the peeling walls and brown water stains, it appears to be just another dirty cell. But on looking at the walls closely and reading the fading writing on it, it is clear that this tiny room holds such significant and important history that it is difficult to grasp the enormity of it.

It was here where former president Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Govan Mbeki and others were held in 1963-64 during the Rivonia trial. And it was here that the group of now famous people, wrote a preamble to the Freedom Charter.

On the wall at the furthest end of the cell, in neat handwriting, are the 10 points set out, which was a dream of Mandela and the others at that stage, but unbeknown to them, the first steps towards a new South Africa.

The introduction reads: “South Africa belongs to all who live in it – black and white – and no government can justly claim authority, unless it is based on the will of the people.”

Underneath this are the 10 points set out. They read: 1 The people shall govern! …