Liliesleaf turns into tourist haven

Eric Naki

Eric Naki

The announcement that Liliesleaf Farm, where the Rivonia trialists were arrested after a massive police raid 45 years ago, is to be opened next month as a tourist attraction has been greeted with enthusiasm.

The place was declared a heritage site as part of a legacy and tribute to the ANC Rivonial Trialists, who included Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Govan Mbeki, Andrew Mlangeni, Ahmed Kathrada, Raymond Mhlaba, Elias Motsoaledi and Denis Goldberg.

Other leaders who sheltered and attended meetings there included Braam Fischer, Joe Slovo, Ruth First and Rusty Bernstein.

Liliesleaf spokesman Victoria Smith said the farm would reopen its doors to the public on June 9. A VIP launch will take place on May 23.The place will house a resource centre, interactive museum, a creche, a curio and coffee shop and temporary and permanent exhibitions.

The farm, situated just outside Johannesburg, was the secret headquarters of the high command of Umkhonto weSizwe (MK), the ANC's military wing. It was there that the idea of armed struggle and MK's formation was mooted and implemented with Mandela as its first commander-in-chief.

The group met and planned their military policy and strategy and acts of sabotage on military and economic installations. The place was also used as a meeting and safe place for ANC activists in the struggle against apartheid.

Information from the Liliesleaf Trust indicates that the farm was bought by Navian, a front company for the Communist Party, funded by the Soviet Union.

One of the trialists, Arthur Goldreich, and his family fronted as the "white owners" of the farm, projecting the façade of the "white front", while the thatched cottage and outbuildings were used to conceal underground activities.