The suburb of Rivonia in Johannesburg will always be a name that goes with the struggle of a group of people, both black and white and from many different backgrounds that strategised and planned to fight against the laws of apartheid in the early 1960s. It is in this suburb that Liliesleaf farm, the leading award winning national heritage site can be found. Liliesleaf was the location where the leaders of the, then banned African National Congress would meet to discuss the way in which they could gain freedom form the oppressive laws of apartheid. It was also a safe house that harboured people who had made themselves unpopular with the government of the time with their opinions and views on the laws of the time.
At present the Liliesleaf farm is a museum a site attracting many visitors both local and international and a store house of the plans and discussions that took place at the farm.
The Liliesleaf farm has been reconstructed and renovated and now offers:
Nelson Mandela needed a place to hide from the police and he lived at the farm disguised as a farm worker but on the fateful day of the raid he was already imprisoned at Robben Island. 11 July 1963 was the day the police raided Liliesleaf under cover of a laundry van. The police detained Comrades Bernstein, Goldberg, Goldreich, Hepple, Kathrada, Mbeki, Mhlaba and Sisulu and also took into custody all the farm workers who had no idea what took place at the meetings.These detainees were joined by Nelson Mandela, who was already in prison and also Andrew Mlangeni and Elias Motsoaledi,other members of the group who had been arrested before the raid to be convicted for treason. In fact the meeting that night centred on the overthrow of the government. A large amount of documents was also seized that led to the new trial of Nelson Mandela who was already serving time in prison for other offences. This meeting was to have been the last that the group was to hold at the farm as they were aware that it was no longer safe. The months after the arrests there was much speculation as to who had denounced the group and the meeting that night. What followed was the famous 9 month long Rivonia trial that saw 8 of the 19 people captured being sentenced to life in prison.
George Mellis as it turned out was the informant who led police to the capture of the men at Liliesleaf farm. He was the 10 year old son of a Caravan Park owner that was situated across the road from the farm. He had observed the various cars coming and going and also the people of different races greeting each other, shaking hands and hugging. This was not acceptable behaviour at that time of total segregation when a white man was not allowed to drive in a car with a black person. He told his family and eventually word got to the military and the police raid was executed.
If these public holidays fall on a Sunday then the following Monday the centre will be closed.
NB: If Liliesleaf has been booked for an exclusive function, the site will be closed to visitors. Please check the website to see if a function will affect your visit.
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