Banishment 1960 – now

Aerial view of the Maximum security prison.
The MSP, west of Murray’s Bay Harbour, was built by political and common law prisoners in the early 1960’s, with stone and stone aggregate from the Jan van Riebeeck and Bluestone quarries.
The prison consists of 4 H-block General Sections, a U-shaped isolation block,, a hospital, an administration section, a kitchen and a dining hall. Each general section contains 4 general cells designed to hold 52 inmates and the isolation block has about 90 single cells.
Diagram of the MSP showing the U and H shaped block sections.
A general section communal cell in block G.
A communal cell (left) and the G Section store (right).
Security at the MSP consists of structures like a catwalk above the isolation block courtyard, five (5) watchtowers, 5 metre high double fencing and 3 metre high walls surrounding the courtyards and separating the sections.
In the 1960s political and common law prisoners were held together in the general section and spent their days serving hard labour. Some of the prominent leaders of the different liberation organisations were held in the isolation block’s B section.
One of the five watchtowers.
Outside the general sections (left) Warder showing a prisoner bed (right) Both these images were from a staged International Red Cross visit.
Each section of the MSP was named after it was completed. The D-section and H block were the first structures completed and the dining hall the last. Prefabricated buildings for administrative offices were added later. The General Sections were classified as A, B, C, D, E, F and G.
The Isolation block was divided into sections A, B and C in the mid-1970s, and a high wall was constructed to separate and prevent communication between political prisoners in the different sections. The southern wing and most of the western wing was called the A section and housed young Black Consciousness Movement and Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) cadres. The B section was the eastern wing. It housed influential leadership figures and became known as the Leadership Section. The A and B sections had communal rooms for eating and recreational activities as well as courtyards used for tennis and small gardens. The C section, named Khulukuthu by the prisoners, was in the western wing and was used as the punishment section for prisoners on solitary confinement and spare diet punishments. This section was also sometimes used for observation.This section was also used as an observation area to monitor prisoners that were being punished or in solitary confinement.
A corridor in the Maximum Security Prison showcases the stone-building skills of members of the Building Team. (left) Before beds were brought to Robben Island Prison in 1979, prisoners slept on mats on the floor. (right)
MK Cadres training.
The D section of the MSP was used for Namibian political prisoners and a few South African prisoners. Prisoners from the D and E sections were moved to the G and F sections when they were graded to a higher prison category. The prisoners in the G and F sections were allowed to learn trades in the workshops of the transformed “Ou-Tronk” while other inmates were confined to their cells.
An individual cell. (left) Another General Section cell. (right)

Tour Details


Cape Town
Light Rain
05:4019:19 SAST
Feels like: 15°C
Wind: 18km/h NW
Humidity: 90%
Pressure: 1017.27mbar
UV index: 0


South Africans
R400 per adult
R210 per child (U/18)

Non South Africans
R600 per adult
R310 per child (U/18)

Tour Times
09:00  |  11:00  |  13:00  15:00