Liliesleaf

Late South African president Nelson Mandela’s lawyer advocate Goerge Bizos attends an interfaith prayer gathering for anti-Aparthied stalwart Ahmed Kathrada on March 21, 2017 at the Liliesleaf Farm in Johannesburg, South Africa.
MUJAHID SAFODIEN / AFP

SA anti-apartheid landmark Liliesleaf Farm shut by lack of funds

Although not as renown as the Apartheid Museum, Liliesleaf was an important part of Johannesburg’s apartheid history exhibits.

Liliesleaf

Late South African president Nelson Mandela’s lawyer advocate Goerge Bizos attends an interfaith prayer gathering for anti-Aparthied stalwart Ahmed Kathrada on March 21, 2017 at the Liliesleaf Farm in Johannesburg, South Africa.
MUJAHID SAFODIEN / AFP

A historical landmark of South Africa’s anti-apartheid struggle has closed indefinitely after years of underfunding made worse during the pandemic, the founder of its trust said on Wednesday.

Between 1961 and 1963, the northern Johannesburg Liliesleaf Farm served as the secret headquarters and nerve centre of the banned African National Congress (ANC), which led the fight against white-minority rule.

Police in 1963 raided the farm after receiving a tip-off and arrested more than a dozen core ANC activists, who were tried and prosecuted alongside their leader Nelson Mandela, already behind bars at the time.

Liliesleaf shut down after struggling to secure funding

Liliesleaf, where Mandela also hid under the guise of a farm worker, was restored around a decade after apartheid officially ended in 1991 and turned into a museum that opened in 2008.

But it has since struggled to secure funding from both the government and private donors, forcing it to shut this week.

“Liliesleaf has been forced to close its doors indefinitely until we are able to secure operational funding,” the founder and CEO of the Liliesleaf Trust Nicholas Wolpe told AFP on Wednesday, deploring the lack of support for arts and culture in South Africa.

“Covid-19 has merely shone a spotlight on the fragility of the sector,” he added, noting that the pandemic had exacerbated years of “funding crisis”.

‘An important part of Johannesburg’s history’

Although not as renown as the Apartheid Museum, Liliesleaf was an important part of Johannesburg’s apartheid history exhibits.

Visitors could enter original-looking thatched farm houses and experience the events that led up to the raid through audio and visual displays, as well as learn about more general resistance to the white-minority government.

After the arrests, Mandela and seven others were sentenced to life in prison for sabotage in what became known as the Rivonia trial.

They were only freed around three decades later, when apartheid fell and Mandela was elected South Africa’s first black president.

© Agence France-Presse

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