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More about Liliesleaf
Tucked away in the leafy suburb of Rivonia, Johannesburg is Liliesleaf. Once the nerve centre of the liberation movement and a place of refuge for its leaders, today Liliesleaf is one of South Africa’s foremost, award-winning heritage sites, where the journey to democracy in South Africa is honoured.
Recognised as one of South Africa’s leading heritage sites, Liliesleaf opened to the public in June 2008 and has since attracted thousands of local and international visitors, eager to understand and engage with a pivotal period in South Africa’s liberation struggle. The museum pays testimony to the many lives that changed the political landscape of this country and through its educational programmes, appeals to younger audiences to face today’s challenges with creative enthusiasm.
On 7 April 1960 the Unlawful Organisations Act was proclaimed, declaring illegal all groups campaigning for the end of apartheid. The PAC and the ANC were banned and forced to go underground.
The South African Communist Party (SACP) set up a front company called Navian (Pty) Ltd through which Liliesleaf was purchased. The property was ideal; secluded in the peri-rural area of Rivonia. It provided a secure location where the underground leadership could meet. The purchase of Liliesleaf also coincided with the ANC’s decision to move from non-violent resistance to armed struggle in the protest against apartheid.
At the time of the purchase, ANC leader Nelson Mandela was underground. In late October 1961 he moved to Liliesleaf, following an invitation from the SACP.
In early December 1961 Arthur Goldreich, a member of the SACP, wife his wife Hazel and their two small children, Nicolas and Paul, moved onto the smallholding. The Goldreichs projected an acceptable white middle-class family façade while the thatched cottage and outbuildings concealed covert liberation activities.
Senior leaders of the liberation movement attended strategy meetings and sought shelter here. They included Nelson Mandela, Govan Mbeki, Walter Sisulu, Ahmed Kathrada, Bram Fischer, Joe Slovo, Ruth First, Raymond Mhlaba, Lionel ‘Rusty’ Bernstein, Bob Hepple, Harold Wolpe, and Denis Goldberg.
The liberation underground operated from Liliesleaf for almost two years before the security police raid on 11 July 1963.
By mid-1963 the leadership of MK was becoming increasingly concerned about their ability to remain undetected at Liliesleaf, and decided to move their operational headquarters from Liliesleaf to Travellyn near Krugersdorp.
At the time of the raid, Nelson Mandela was imprisoned on Robben Island. There was, therefore, no evidence to link him to the activities of Liliesleaf. However, the day after the raid the police uncovered the cache of documents in the coal shed near the main house. The police allegedly clapped their hands with joy as they recognised the handwriting as belonging to Mandela. Here was evidence of Mandela’s link to Liliesleaf, and all the intimate details of his travels abroad to build up support for the ANC and MK. The police had their case.
Mandela was brought to Pretoria from Robben Island to join the group arrested at Liliesleaf. He had served nine months of his five-year sentence. He now became Accused Number 1 of the group charged with 221 acts of sabotage that the state believed was designed to “ferment violent revolution”.
The trial began on 3 December 1963 at the Pretoria Supreme Court.
In Mandela’s statement from the dock on 20 April 1964, he made it clear that the sabotage campaign was not civil war, and that civil war would only be a last resort. He also admitted that the ANC had formed a necessary alliance with the multiracial Communist Party, but that the two organisations did not share “a complete community of interests”. He reinforced his commitment to democracy and said that MK was an African movement, fighting for dignity, for decent livelihoods, and for equal rights.
When Liliesleaf operated as an underground venue for liberation activities it was referred to by some as Lil’s Place and known to others by its codename Cedric.
Cedric’s Cafe is open to the public and patrons are not required to pay the admission fee should they wish to visit the cafe or auditorium. Should they decide to visit the historical site, admission fees will apply.
Self, guided and educational tours are offered.
Visitors are welcome to explore the heritage site at their own pace, and tour groups of ten people or more are required to make a reservation.
Tickets can be purchased either online through Webtickets or at the ticket office.
*Special rates apply to Educational Tours.
Tucked away in the suburbs underneath a canopy of old trees, Liliesleaf provides a peaceful environment for professionals.
As the site where the Rivonia triallists were arrested for colluding against the apartheid government, Liliesleaf extends the tradition of meetings and conferences by availing its facilities for corporate and conference use.