Former anti-apartheid cleric Allan Boesak maintained his innocence again on Monday minutes before he handed himself over to Bellville police to begin his three-year term.
"I will go to prison this morning knowing that I am innocent and I will continue to be innocent," he said.
Boesak, who was hoisted on to the shoulders of supporters to the police station for about 200 metres along Voortrekker Road, was flanked by his wife Elna, and his children from his previous marriage.
At least three ministers prayed and quoted from the scriptures, including former Western Cape leader Chris Nissen.
Boesak told the crowd: "We will transform that prison from a place of shame to a place of pride. From hopelessness to hope."
He said that people should not despair or be angry or lose hope.
"My going to prison should not be a reason to think we don't have hope. While I'm in there, remember what we have done and what we have fought together for."
He urged the crowds "not to remember me, but what we have done together. Much still must be done to transform South Africa".
He said that if people wanted to hear his voice from inside prison they should listen to his wife, Elna.
Elna Boesak was due to address supporters at Pollsmoor prison later on Monday.
Boesak wore a dark grey suit with blue shirt and yellow tie as he accompanied African National Congress leader Ebrahim Rasool, ANC chief whip Tony Yengeni and other supporters on a march to the police station with Boesak leading the march.
The crowd was singing: "What has he done, what has he done?"
Nissen told Boesak that, in God, truth would triumph. "Go with him to his new home where you can transform that cell."
Another minister Andrew Bruintjies told supporters he had been asked to minister personally to Boesak while he was in jail and also to his wife.
Meanwhile, reformed 28s prisons gang member the Rev Mike Michaels said that gangsters in Pollsmoor wanted Boesak "to come in and minister to them".
Boesak entered the police station grounds and went into the police station for a few minutes, accompanied by his wife.
He then climbed into the back of a white Nissan, along with his wife, and they were driven to Pollsmoor as his supporters hung on fences to get a last glimpse of their hero. - Sapa