Durban Central Prison

Durban Central Prison stood on this site from the early 20th century until it was decommissioned in 1985, when the new Westville Prison was completed. Originally the town jail, it held a combination of convicted criminals, remanded prisoners awaiting trial at the nearby Magistrate’s Courts and political detainees being held without trial. It was commonly referred to by prisoners as “Sentele”, derived from the Zulu pronunciation of Central. A short section of the prison wall and two guard towers were preserved in memory of those prisoners of conscience interned at the Old Central Prison for their political beliefs and for their participation in the liberation struggle. Many leaders from anti-apartheid organisations were kept here during the Passive Resistance and Defiance Campaigns, including those who burned passbooks. Any person detained for opposing the system of apartheid in Durban was probably held in this prison at some point. Shortly before it was finally closed in June 1985, an ecumenical group of church leaders organised a march to the jail walls on Good Friday to pray for political prisoners held here and elsewhere in the country. During the transition period before democracy was established in South Africa, 27 young artists from Community Mural Projects received sponsorship from Lawyers for Human Rights to decorate the remaining section of walls. The artwork that was created in 1992 celebrates the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as civil liberties that were later enshrined in our democratic constitution.


Address: corner of Walnut Rd and Dr A.B. Xuma St
GPS Points: -29.85286, 31.02419
Site Contact Details: Steven Kotze
Durban Local History Museums
031 311 2239

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