The Drill Hall, located near the bustling Noord Street taxi rank in Johannesburg’s Joubert Park, is an important heritage site in the city.
The hall’s history dates back to 1904, when a military base was constructed on the ruins of a “native” prison to mark Britain’s victory in the Anglo-Boer War (1899 to 1902). The hall became the headquarters of the Transvaal Volunteers, South African soldiers who had fought alongside the British in the war.
The hall is perhaps better known for its association with the Treason Trial, in which 156 anti-apartheid activists – Nelson Mandela among them – were charged with high treason. The initial stages of the trial, in 1956 and 1957, were conducted in the hall before the case was moved to Pretoria for security reasons. Today, a series of pillars in the courtyard commemorates the trialists.
After the military abandoned the Drill Hall in 1992, the building fell into disrepair. By the late 1990s, it was home to hundreds of squatters. Following a fire in 2001 and another in 2002, the building underwent a R10-million refurbishment.
The present structure was designed by Michael Hart in 2004 and funded by the City of Johannesburg.
Today, the heritage site is a place that nurtures artists, funded the by the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund. It is hoped that the history of the Drill Hall will, in time, be made accessible through tours for visitors who want to understand the historical and contemporary significance of the site.
10h30 to 17h00
The Drill Hall is on the eastern side of the Johannesburg CBD, next to Joubert Park. It is on the corner of Plein and Twist streets.