The Old Fort prison buildings were built from 1896 to 1899. They were created by the Boers for the specific purpose of holding captive British invaders. During the Anglo-Boer War, however, the British seized Johannesburg and converted the Old Fort prison buildings for the incarceration of Boers, some of whom were executed there. Even prominent Boer leaders of the Anglo-Boer War were imprisoned here by the British soon after the British had succeeded in seizing and controlling Johannesburg.
Under the apartheid government, only whites were held in the Old Fort prison buildings, except for Nelson Mandela, he was kept there after the government received a tip-off regarding an escape attempt. Mandela was given a bed in the hospital section as an awaiting-trial prisoner in 1962 prior to the Rivonia Trial.
In the old prison blocks visitors can learn more about South Africa's difficult path towards freedom and democracy from the permanent museum exhibitions that include personal testimonies from former prisoners and warders and installations.