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Palace of Justice
Central, Pretoria, Gauteng

Sytze Wopkes WIERDA: Design Architect
John MUNRO: Contractor

Type:Government Buildings
Street:Church Square


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25°44'44.50" S 28°11'15.54" E

On 8 June 1897, the foundation stone for the Palace of Justice was laid by Paul Kruger with the usual formalities. The Palace of Justice cost £115 260, and the contractor was John Munro, at that time Pretoria's leading builder. The interior is resplendent with polished wood, brass, stained glass, tiled floors and the many trappings that were the prestige symbols of an emergent state during the latter years of the 19th century. Below all this dignity runs a semi-basement, where the grimmer happenings of justice took place.

(Picton-Seymour, 1989: 166)


Notes accompanying the 1977 First Day Cover (See right)


The motif of this stamp, namely the Palace of Justice, was chosen to commemorate the centenary of a Supreme Court in the Transvaal.

The Palace of Justice was designed under the leadership of Sytze Wierda and was built by John Munro. The building was completed only after the Anglo-Boer War. During the war it served as a hospital for British soldiers. The building stands on two erven, namely the parsonage erf on which M. W. Pretorius had an official residence built for him in 1856 that was used for other purposes, and the school erf on which the first Government School was erected in 1859.

The administration of justice in the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek was in the hands of landdrosts (magistrates), members of the heemraad (a kind of local authority) and jurymen. The Supreme Court established by the Constitution of 1858 consisted of three landdrosts and twelve jurymen.

On 7 March 1877, in view of the imminent annexation by Britain, the Constitution was radically changed, especially as regards the administration of justice. The amendment provided, among other things, for the establishment of a Supreme Court consisting of three judges. However, this act never came into force as the annexation took place on 12 April 1877.

On 18 May 1877 Sir Theophilus Shepstone. British Special Commissioner, issued a proclamation that provided for the establishment of a Supreme Court of the Transvaal. The first session of this court took place on 23 May 1877 with John Kotze (later Sir John Kotze) as sole judge.

At the end of British rule the first legislative act by the triumvirate was to put the Volksraad decision of 7 March 1877 into operation. Consequently the Supreme Court continued to exist. Since then the Supreme Court has fearlessly exercised its function as independent justiciary body under various regimes.

Writings about this entry

Bakker, Karel A, Clarke, Nicholas J & Fisher, Roger C. 2014. Eclectic ZA Wilhelmiens : A shared Dutch built heritage in South Africa. Pretoria: Visual Books. pg 43, 46-47, 78, 81, 84-85, 136, 164, 205, 215
Dunston, Lola & Dunston, Tom. 1975. Young Pretoria 1889-1913. Pretoria: Dunston. pg 16, 32, 42, 44, 63, 102, 168, 266, 292, 294, 308
Fisher, RC, Le Roux, SW & Maré, E (Eds). 1998. Architecture of the Transvaal. Pretoria: UNISA. pg 54 ill, 65, 76 ill
Greig, Doreen. 1971. A Guide to Architecture in South Africa. Cape Town: Howard Timmins. pg 192-193
Picton-Seymour, Désirée. 1989. Historical Buildings in South Africa. Cape Town: Struikhof Publishers. pg 166, 167 (ill)
Swart, Johan & Proust, Alain . 2019. Hidden Pretoria. Cape Town: Struik Lifestyle. pg 66-75
Holm, Dieter Kerkplaats and Capitalists: The First Architects in Context: in Fisher, RC, Le Roux, SW and Maré, E (Eds). 1998. Architecture of the Transvaal: pp 65