oa Fundamina : A Journal of Legal History - The development of racially defined punishment in Colonial Natal : the early history of Durban's Point Prison - research

Volume 25 Number 2
  • ISSN : 1021-545X
  • E-ISSN: 2411-7870



This article traces the early history of the Point Convict Station situated near the entrance to Durban’s harbour. Contained in the history of this building are a number of themes that are unique to the penal history of KwaZulu-Natal and, more widely, southern Africa. With its origins dating back to the turn of the twentieth century, this particular building symbolises the expression of a penal ideology, which we call “racially differentiated punishmentˮ. The building represents a particular regime of punishment that was reserved for non-European prisoners in particular. It is argued that, within the context of colonial Natal, a number of central themes distinguished the punishment of non-European prisoners from that of European prisoners at ideological level. White colonial authorities regarded labour as an extremely important element in the punishment of black offenders in particular. Further, there was a clear policy to push for complete racial segregation in the penal system of the colony of Natal around the turn of the twentieth century. In relation to this theme, we explore the development of a penal ideology based explicitly on the separation of different racial groups – the significance of this lies in the fact that these policies were implemented almost half a century before the advent of apartheid in South Africa.

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