Liliesleaf Farm is the location where prominent leaders of the opposition to South Africa's Apartheid Government used to attend meetings in order to plan their resistance. Today visitors can visit the Farm and learn about the fascinating History.
The story of Liliesleaf Farm is one of incredible strength, power, passion and struggle. Liliesleaf Farm is situated in Rivonia off of George Avenue. The Farm is the location where prominent resistance leaders such as Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Joe Slovo and Ahmed Kathrada used to meet, and seek shelter during the Apartheid years. "Liliesleaf was an old house that needed work and no one lived there. I moved in under the pretext that I was a houseboy or caretaker that would live there until my master took possession. I had taken the alias David Motsamayi, the name of one of my former clients. At the farm, I wore the simple blue overalls that were the uniform of the black male servant." An exert from Nelson Mandela's book: "Long Walk to Freedom".
At Liliesleaf these individuals and others would meet to hold key debates around political strategy, military policy and the steps forward in the political struggle against South Africa's oppressive Government. The Apartheid laws of 1948 had meant that racial discrimination was officially institutionalised and legal, these laws and others seeped into every aspect of life for non-white South Africans, dictating where they went, where they lived, who they married and which jobs they were allowed to do. From 1948 through the 1950's and into the 1960's the racial discrimination intensified and the treatment of non-white citizens got worse and worse.
During this time the Government introduced 'states of emergency' at intermittent times. These times meant that police or other Government officials were legally allowed to detain or imprison anyone they wanted to without a hearing or a trial for up to 6 months. Many of the detainees died in prison, some simply 'disappeared' while others were badly beaten and tortured. The prisoners who did receive a trial were sentenced to death, banished or imprisoned for life.
As the situation worsened, more protests were held and the police brutality increased forming a vicious cycle of demonstrations, death or injury for the protesters and then more demonstrations. In March 1960 the Apartheid Government declared a state of emergency, arrested over 18 000 people and passing a law that made it illegal for members of the opposition to meet in public! Despite feeling as though the secret location had been identified! A number of the leaders met, for what was supposed to be the final time at Liliesleaf Farm, on the 11th July 1963 to discuss a plan to over throw the Government which they called: "Operation Mayibuye".
However the final meeting would prove to be one too many and the South African Police swooped down on the Buildings after they received an anonymous tip off that Walter Sisulu might be in the premises and managed to capture a number of senior leaders including; Govan Mbeki, Walter Sisulu, Raymond Mhlaba and Ahmed Kathrada. Nelson Mandela was already imprisoned at the time, but he did visit Liliesleaf Farm regularly!
As a result of these and other laws the leaders of the Communist Party decided to find a secure and secluded property where their leadership could meet in secret and the site they chose was Liliesleaf Farm. The house was 'purchased' by a fronting company and a member of the Communist Party; Arthur Goldrich and his family moved into the front farm house to act at the owners while the out buildings and thatched cottages were used for secret meetings. The move to the farm would result in the 'birth' of the ANC's military wing; Umkhonto we Sizwe. The resulting trial would become famous around the World as the Rivonia Treason Trial which imprisoned many resistance members for over 25 years. The arrest of these leaders was a major blow to the resistance and the struggle for freedom, but the resulting trial forced the World to focus on South Africa and the human right's atrocities that were occurring in the Country!
Today visitors can explore Liliesleaf Farm and take guided tour around the different Buildings and Areas. With the help of state of the art audio and visual displays, passionate guides teach you about the history of the farm and explain the historical and political importance of the events that occurred there. The house and surrounding buildings have been restored as authentically as possible and over 60% of the buildings now display their original brickwork.
The Liliesleaf Farm museum in Rivonia has closed its doors after millions could not be accounted for. (2nd of September 2021) Read the article tagged in: 'Further Reading'.