The Kgosi Mampuru Correctional Facility previously known as the Pretoria Maximum Prison Gallows in Pretoria, Gauteng was built in 1902. It is the only prison in South Africa where executions took place. Between 1902 and 1989, more than 3 500 prisoners were executed at the prison, of which 132 were political prisoners. The gallows were dismantled in 1996, but it was decided to restore it as a memorial museum. The prison was declared a national heritage site and future plans include opening it to the public. Due to the prison still being operational as a C-max prison, makes it difficult to open the museum to the public.
The journey of the prisoners, at the gallows, began when they were called into the “feedback room” where an inmate was told he was going to be executed. Most prisoners were told that they had seven days left to live before they would be hung. The executions were usually on a Friday, at 6:00 in the morning. But before reaching their final destination, the inmates would climb 52 steps. As part of the memorial, the stairs are now numbered and the walls have pictures of the prisoners walking up them. The prisoners wore a hoodie and dark prison clothes before entering the gallows. Once inside, a gantry hangs from the ceiling with nooses attached to it. The inmates would then take their place on the trapdoor which would open once the hangmen would secure the nooses around their necks. The room now contains information concerning the men that were hung in honour of them. The bodies would hang over the “blood catchment pit” which is a big square shallow pool with a drain in the middle. In the corner of the room, you cannot miss a coffin with flowers on top but then you see the cold metal autopsy table in the next room. After the autopsy, the bodies were placed in plain brown wooden coffins and by 9:00 in the morning would be sent down in a lift to the chapel where their families could pay their last respects. The bodies would then be buried as paupers without the families’ knowledge of their whereabouts.
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