Fundraiser launched to save Liliesleaf heritage site and 'preserve' history for future generations

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The late Andrew Mlangeni and Denis Goldberg, who were defendants in the Rivonia Trial, on 10 June 2014 at Liliesleaf farm.
The late Andrew Mlangeni and Denis Goldberg, who were defendants in the Rivonia Trial, on 10 June 2014 at Liliesleaf farm.
PHOTO: Sizwe Ndingane/Gallo Images, The Times
  • The Liliesleaf liberation heritage site is in financial trouble and needs help.
  • The tentacles of the Covid-19 pandemic added to a reduction in donations.
  • Thirty staff members, who had their pay cut last year, have not been paid this year.

The Liliesleaf liberation heritage site is in financial trouble because funding has dried up during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Trust, which manages it, launched a donation campaign in the lead up to Freedom Day, after being unable to pay 30 staffers since the beginning of the year.

In the early sixties, the farm in Rivonia, Johannesburg was a nerve centre of liberation struggle allies, the ANC, SACP and the Congress Alliance, as well as the ANC's armed wing, uMkhonto we Sizwe. The banned organisations were forced to work in the shadows to avoid arrest or death at the hands of apartheid security forces at the time.

On 11 July 1963, after a police raid, 10 people were put on trial to face charges of sabotage against the state, in what became known as the "Rivonia Trial".

READ | Who would be prepared to make sacrifices today for the people? - Motlanthe asks hard questions at Rivonia Trial anniversary

"Nelson Mandela, who was already serving a prison sentence at the time of the raid, became Accused Number 1. With him in the dock were Walter Sisulu, Denis Goldberg, Govan Mbeki, Ahmed Kathrada, Lionel 'Rusty' Bernstein, Raymond Mhlaba, James Kantor, Elias Motsoaledi and Andrew Mlangeni," the Trust explained.

Kantor and Bernstein were acquitted, but the other eight were found guilty and sentenced to life in prison.

"It is heartbreaking," CEO Nicholas Wolpe told News24 of the situation.

He explained that 30 staff members had their pay cut last June, and have not been paid since then. He said he also stopped drawing a salary.

'Treasured resource for future generations'

They limped along on some international donations, fervent fundraising by the ANC Liliesleaf branch, an overdraft from Absa and money owed to service providers, but they had now hit a wall.

An appeal on Wolpe's Facebook profile read: "Liliesleaf, like other South African heritage institutions, is finding it increasingly difficult to sustain its operations and programmes."

He wrote: 

This is an appeal for contributions to keep Liliesleaf going, to preserve its historical artefacts and exhibitions, to sustain its operations and to ensure that it remains a treasured resource for future generations.

A crowdfunding campaign was launched and the Trust is suggesting donations in the amount of 27 rand, dollars, pounds or euros to mark South Africa's 27th year of democracy later this month.

ALSO READ | 'Bravest of us all': ANC, friends and family honour Denis Goldberg at digital memorial

Donors can also pledge 60 rand, dollars, pounds or euros to mark the 60th anniversary of the purchase of Liliesleaf.

Wolpe said heritage institutions and places of history and memory, such as Liliesleaf, were struggling, not only because of the pandemic, but because of funding neglect by the government.

"Everyone needs to have an understanding of our tormented and fractious past that shaped who we are today," he said, to explain why it was so important to keep funding the site.

Cape Town's famous District 6 museum is among other historic sites with context and memory of apartheid's travesties, which has also faced closure because of the lockdown and the decline in funding.

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