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Constitution Hill

South Africa has an executive, legislative, and judicial branch of government. The judicial branch resides in Johannesburg. Constitution Hill located in the neighborhood of Braamfontein is situated right on the edge of Hillbrow.  The Hill holds such historic and symbolic significance as it was once used as a prison and detention center for political dissidents opposed to apartheid. The South African constitution known to be one of the more liberal constitutional documents in the world was ratified in late 1996. It is the job of the Constitutional Court, the highest court in the land, to defend the democratic principles of the constitution. But, as we all know there is a huge difference between democratic theory and practice. In many ways, Mpe’s novel symbolizes the struggle to reconcile the ideas of democracy with its practice in a post-apartheid society. And, it is so apropos that the defenders of the constitution are right on the edge of Hillbrow.


Posted by Emma Clay-Barbour on

It is very interesting to hear that their branches of the government are stationed in separate cities. I wonder what the effects of the apartheid protests would have on the government had the government actually been stationed in just one city.-Emma C-B

Posted by Clare Peterson on

I found it really amazing how each student took the assignment and created Hillbrow and it’s people in their minds. Some took the literal meaning of the task and made a realistic map, while others took a more creative approach. I also found the photo gallery to be very helpful. It really gave a face to the city we were reading about. The place in the worry almost felt like a distant dream, so seeing pictures of the real thing really solidified the book for me.

Posted by Alex Brady on

It’s fascinating that democracy in South Africa exists, but isn’t very effective. I also think that unlike in the U.S. how many major government systems take place in Washington D.C., that their different branches of government reside in different parts of their country.

Posted by Isaac Rubenstein on

The irony that constitution hill, that houses the judicial branch, is named Constitution Hill is very interesting as historically it stands in direct opposition to its meaning today. The South African constitution, the document that stands to defend the rights of South Africans sits atop a hill that once stood for oppression and the imprisoning those that stood for the rights of human beings.

Posted by John Holmes on

I think it’s really interesting that the place that is supposed to defend the rights of South Africans was once a jail for people opposed to apartheid, people fighting for the rights of South Africans. I wonder what message this sends to South Africans and if it was an intentional message sent by the government.

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