“During my lifetime I have dedicated my life to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons will live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal for which I hope to live for and to see realised. But, my Lord, if it needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.” – Nelson Mandela during the Rivonia Trial and after the raid on Liliesleaf farm.
On 11 July 1963, during a secret meeting between top African National Congress officials at Liliesleaf Farm in Rivonia, security police raided the farm and captured 19 members of the party and charged them with sabotage. This came as a surprise, as the liberation had run successful meetings at the farm since 1961. This lead to the notorious Rivonia Trial which changed the future of the country forever. The authorities consequently found a bunker filled with “incriminating” evidence against Nelson Mandela, and this lead to his prison sentence being increased from five to 27 years.
Walking the grounds at Liliesleaf, one cannot help but envision a 44-year-old Madiba tending the land of the farm under his then-alias, David Motsamayi, to hide his true identity. Today Liliesleaf serves as a historical site that offers a detailed perspective into the events that transpired here. Most of the original farm still stands and has been preserved by Liliesleaf founder and CEO, Nicholas Wolpe, and his team, a process that started in 2001 when Mr. Wolpe was asked to coordinate a Rivonia Trial reunion. He suggested to the ANC that they buy Liliesleaf back from the owners at the time and restore the history associated with the site. But the significance of Liliesleaf and Mr. Wolpe runs much deeper than the reunion. Forty years prior, Nicholas Wolpe’s father, the lawyer and anti-apartheid activist, Harold Wolpe, officiated the legal purchase of the farm.
In May 2018, 1 057 people visited Liliesleaf. This number is made up of tourists, students and curious locals. The team would like to see this number grow to around 1 200 per month. To promote the historical site, they host special events such as the Liliesleaf Bubbly Festival commemorating National Women’s Day. The premises also house Cedric’s cafe – Cedric being a codename given to Liliesleaf during the struggle – which serves light meals and alcohol. The eatery is open to the public and can be accessed without paying an admission fee.
Under 7 years: Free
8 – 17 years: R50
All prices are correct at the time of writing.
For event bookings please contact Genevieve, 011 803 7882 or visit Liliesleaf online
By Shawn Greyling