Groot Drakenstein Prison

Groot Drakenstein Prison is on the map as this was the last place in which Nelson Mandela was incarcerated and it was through these gates that he walked to freedom in 1990

Western Cape Tourist AttractionsThe Groot Drakenstein Prison

The Groot Drakenstein correctional facility (the former Victor Verster maximum security prison near Simondium, between Franschhoek and Paarl) is a working prison that was renamed in 2000.

Where? R301 road 5km from the R45 Huguenot Road, Groot Drakenstein, Cape Winelands

How? Call +27 (0)21 864-8000

Overnight? See Paarl accommodation, in Cape Winelands

Groot Drakenstein Prison is on the map chiefly because this was the last place in which Nelson Mandela was incarcerated and it was through these gates, and not those of Pollsmoor in Cape Town or from Robben Island, that Mandela walked to freedom in 1990.

Surprisingly, the prison looks something like a boys’ school rather than a security prison. And its surrounds - it lies in amongst grape vines and undulating hills - is equally incongruous. There is a legend that describes how prisoners from Groot Drakenstein managed to escape on foot - the journey took a week - through the valley and over the mountains to Cape Town.

A larger than life-size bronze statue of Mandela was recently unveiled at Groot Drakenstein Prison. It is a beautiful statue showing Mandela with raised fist - a well recognised gesture of defiance, usually accompanied by the freedom slogan - amandla awethu, isiZulu or power to the people.

Groot Drakenstein Prison is an isolated, out of the way place in which to place such a statue, but the location has been deliberately chosen to stand in the very place where Mandela took his first steps outside of the prison as a free man.

The statue was commissioned from South African artist Jean Doyle by Tokyo Sexwale, a well known businessman who himself spent 13 years on Robben Island. The statue is a tribute to every person who made sacrifices in the fight for freedom.

Inscribed on the base of the statue it reads "The Sexwhale Family Foundation has commissioned this Long Walk To Freedom Statue in honour of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, together with all those who walked before, alongside and for him in the quest for a united non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and free South Africa, as part of the international struggle for human solidarity against all forms of oppression and exploitation".

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Did you know?

Mandela served the last 14 months of his 27 years in prison in a house in the grounds of the Groot Drakenstein Prison (then known as Victor Verster Prison). He left the prison a free man. At the prison gates stands a life-size bronze statue of him with his fist raised.

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