Liliesleaf Farm Museum shuts down after funds run dry

Failed fundraising drive last straw for heritage site

01 September 2021 - 17:12
By Mpho Sibanyoni
Liliesleaf Farm in Rivonia
Image: Thulani Mbele Liliesleaf Farm in Rivonia

Liliesleaf Farm Museum, a national heritage site which in the apartheid era served as the secret headquarters of the ANC, has shut down due to financial distress.

The museum's CEO Nicholas Wolpe told SowetanLIVE that the museum based in Rivonia, north of Joburg, has closed down indefinitely on Tuesday after running out of operational funds.

“We don't have funds to take care of daily operations of the museum. This means we don't have sufficient funds to keep the place open and pay staff, security guards, water and electricity, and for the maintenance of the museum,” said Wolpe.

“We paid the last salaries on August 25. The last working day was on August 31.”

Wolpe, however, said the projects division of the museum, which involves the digitisation of the museum's archives, would remain open.

He said it was sad that the operational division of the museum closed down in a year when the heritage site was supposed to commemorate three important anniversaries. 

“On August 23 it was the 60th anniversary of the purchase of Liliesleaf Farm. In October it is the 60th anniversary of when Nelson Mandela came to the farm as David Motsamai. In December it is the 60th anniversary of the formation of Umkhonto weSizwe at the farm,” he said.

The farm closed its operations after launching an unsuccessful fundraising drive in April.

Posting on events organising firm Quicket's website, the heritage site's management said it had made relentless efforts to secure public and corporate funding.

Wolpe said he was disappointed that the Gauteng and national governments didn't assist with funding to keep the museum open, despite numerous requests.

Attempts to obtain comments from the ANC, the department of sports, arts and culture, Gauteng government and parliamentary portfolio committee of sports, arts and culture were fruitless.