Iconic heritage site Liliesleaf to close its doors indefinitely

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Liliesleaf Farm In Rivonia.
Liliesleaf Farm In Rivonia.
Pictures/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
  • National heritage site Liliesleaf in Rivonia said it had faced several years of a funding crisis.
  • The museum lambasted the Department of Sports, Arts and Culture for not providing adequate relief. 
  • Liliesleaf CEO Nicholas Wolpe told News24 he felt "numb" by the devastating news. 

One of South Africa's foremost national heritage sites, Liliesleaf, in Rivonia has announced it is closing its doors indefinitely.

In a statement released by the heritage museum, it said it had faced a funding crisis for several years.

"[This] has been compounded and exacerbated by the impact of Covid. Despite the successful efforts in raising funds from corporates and the public, who showed great generosity in coming to the aid of Liliesleaf, earlier in the year through a crowdfunding initiative, the funds raised only helped so far. Liliesleaf has been living on borrowed time ever since," it added.

The museum criticised the Department of Sports, Arts and Culture for not providing adequate relief.

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - JULY 18:  British Pri
Former British Prime Minister David Cameron was given a guided tour by Bishop Desmond Tutu around Liliesleaf in 2011.

"The closure of Liliesleaf has yet again demonstrated the abject failure of the Department of Sports, Arts and Culture to provide the financial support so desperately needed by Liliesleaf and the sector as a whole at this critical time in our history and struggle for survival."

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

Between 1961 and 1963, Liliesleaf served as the secret headquarters and nerve centre of the ANC, SACP, Umkhonto weSizwe and Congress Alliance.

Its CEO, Nicholas Wolpe, told News24 he felt "numb" following the devastating news.

"To me, this was a labour of love, and it was a passion for me. I have to hold on to the hope that we raise the funds. It also shows what the government thinks of our history, and no one seems to acknowledge the importance of this place."

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Andrew Mlangeni and Denis Goldberg, former defendants in the Rivonia Trial, walk outside Liliesleaf farm in 2014.

He said the amount the museum received from the department was miniscule and not enough for its upkeep.

"The last funding we received was in April 2015. The Department of Arts and Culture is chaotic."

READ | Liliesleaf farm to be a heritage site

Wolpe started Liliesleaf 20 years ago because of the back story that many were unaware of.

"People didn't know about Liliesleaf and I wanted to inspire people through this. It captured a very important moment in our history. No one knew about the people involved in this struggle and the intimate discussions that happened at Liliesleaf," he said.  

Comment from the department will be added once received.

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