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A week or two ago I visited Liliesleaf Farm, the secret headquarters of the African National Congress (ANC) during the 1960s. The farm was located in the affluent northern suburbs of Johannesburg, reserved for white owners only, staffed with black domestic workers. Arthur Goldreich, a member of the Communist Party, provided the cover as the legitimate owner of the property. Many key members of the struggle needed to hide from apartheid authorities and the farm became the base for the newly formed Umkhonto weSiswe, the armed wing of the ANC. Nelson Mandela moved to the farm as the supposed gardener, cook and chauffeur at Liliesleaf and to avoid suspicion, he lived in the tiny servants’ quarters.
On 11 July 1963 a secret meeting was held on the farm in a little thatched outbuilding. The security police raided the farm and captured the members of the underground, charging them with sabotage. Nelson Mandela was not present that morning, but the police found documents incriminating him during the raid and he was brought to trial with the others. Nelson Mandela would spend twenty five years and eight months in prison as a result of the Rivonia Treason trial.
Liliesleaf is today a museum with a series of high-tech, interactive exhibits. I was intriqued by the first-hand accounts of the events and circumstances leading up to the infamous raid of the Rivonia farm. I was also reminded that Nelson Mandela’s statement at the trial was a five hour long speech, leaving us some of his most famous quotes. This is a very insightful museum and I can recommend it.
You can read more about Liliesleaf Farm on their website here.
Image credits: All photography by me