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A Jo'burg activists' farm turned museum

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A picture of Nelson Mandela at the Liliesleaf Farm in Johannesburg. PHOTO|MARYANNE GICOBI 

By MARYANNE GICOBI

Posted  Monday, April 17   2017 at  17:01

In Summary

  • The farm was secretly used by South African activists in the 1960s — members of the African National Congress who were planning to overthrow the apartheid government.

On my recent visit to South Africa, I was looking for new places to explore.

I visited a number of places, and the one I enjoyed most was the Liliesleaf Farm, in the suburb of Rivonia in northern Johannesburg.

The farm was secretly used by South African activists in the 1960s — members of the African National Congress who were planning to overthrow the apartheid government.

The museum showcases the struggle that went into liberating the country.

On paying an entry fee of $11, one is led into a room to watch a 12-minute film showing the mistreatment of Africans by the apartheid government, which led to the need to fight the oppressors.

After watching the film, we went to see various rooms.

In the living room, one of the ANC member was arrested as he was running to the toilet to flush documents that had details of the plans to overthrow the government.

The rooms also have pictures of the ANC leaders and some notable quotes of people who were arrested that day . The kitchen, store room and bathroom have been well preserved.

A picture of Nelson Mandela at the Liliesleaf

A picture of Nelson Mandela at the Liliesleaf Farm in Johannesburg. PHOTO|MARYANNE GICOBI


On 11 July 1963, security police raided the farm and captured 19 members of the main underground movement and charged them with sabotage.

The arrest was dramatic as the police came in a vehicle disguised as a laundry van. Before the ANC members could escape, the police let chase dogs loose on the activists and arrested all of them.

For 18 months they had been holed up at the farm which had been bought to serve as the headquarters of the underground community party.

It was a safe place for political fugitives like Nelson Mandela to operate from.

A white couple who projected an acceptable white middle-class family facade posed as the owners, while the thatched cottage and outbuildings concealed covert liberation activities.

Nelson Mandela posed as their caretaker, working in blue overalls, under the name David Motsamayi.

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