Apartheid, Museum | 0 comments

“Liliesleaf Museum . . . straight out of a John le Carre novel!”

“. . . fortunate to experience the bravery, the resolve and the tenacity.”

“. . . engulfed with emotion and overwhelmed with information!”

The entrance to the renovated farm house at Liliesleaf Farm in the Johannesburg suburb of Rivonia, where Arthur Goldreich and his family lived.


When renovations started at Liliesleaf in 2002, the plan was to keep it as authentic as possible, but unfortunately like so many other sites of historical importance in the city, the end result is far too clinical! It’s all too tidy and squeaky clean! There is no semblance to this ever having been a farm. It’s rather a monument to where Liliesleaf Farm once was! What was facebrick has been painted, and intrusive, modern administrative buildings with rolling manicured lawns and vast areas of modern brick paving all camouflage the fact that this was once an isolated, rural piece of land! But, having said that, the story of Liliesleaf could have been a blockbuster suspense movie. It has such audacity and political intrigue and is one of my favourite historical sites in Johannesburg! It’s a ‘must do’ when in the city!
July 2020 PLEASE NOTE : DUE TO COVID-19 RESTRICTIONS, DETAILS GIVEN HERE COULD BE INACCURATE. PLEASE CHECK WITH LILIESLEAF AT THE NUMBERS, OR THEIR WEBSITE, BELOW! LILIESLEAF OPENING TIMES : Monday to Friday : 08h30–17h00 (8.30am – 5.00pm) Saturday and Sunday : 09h00 – 16h00 (9.00am – 4.00pm) 27th December to 4th January If you plan to visit Liliesleaf during this period, please phone and check on opening and closing times. Liliesleaf will be closed to the public when hosting exclusive functions Please check the website (at bottom of this page) or phone to see if you could be affected. LILIESLEAF ENTRANCE FEES : Adult : R120.00 (self-guided) Student : R70.00 (on presentation of student card) Children under 8-17 : R50 Children under 7 : Free Pensioners : R50.00 Pensioners Special : R90.00 Muffin/scone; tea/coffee PLUS tour. LILIESLEAF CONTACTS : Telephone : +27 (0)11 803 7882/3/4 LILIESLEAF MUSEUM ADDRESS : Liliesleaf Museum 7 George Avenue (Between Rietfontein and Cowley Roads) Rivonia LILIESLEAF GPS Co-ordinates (hdd.dddddd°) S26.043726 E028.053396


The African National Congress (ANC) discussed the possibility of using violence to bring an end to apartheid, but repeatedly attempted peaceful means! This changed on 21st March 1960 when 69 protesters were killed by the South African police in Sharpeville. A few days later, on 30th March 1960, a State of Emergency was declared, and both the ANC and the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) were banned . These actions made it clear that the Government had no intention of ending apartheid. Mandela called for a countrywide general strike on 29th, 30th and 31st May 1961, that proved to be relatively unsuccessful, and it was this ‘failure’, that enabled him to convince the ANC that violence, and not peaceful protest, was the only option. He was authorised to form *uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK) – the armed wing of the ANC, in June 1961, that came into being in November 1961. (* translates as ‘Spear of the Nation’)
The coal bunker (on the right) at Liliesleaf where Mandela's documents had been hidden, but were used to incriminate him after the police uncovered them.


The South Afican Communist Party (SACP) was banned in 1950, and subsequently operated underground in secret.

In 1961, Liliesleaf Farm in Rivonia was bought by Arthur Goldreich and Harold Wolpe with money, evidently from the former Soviet Union, to be used as a safe refuge from Government persecution

Nelson Mandela went ‘underground’ after the failed strike in May 1961, and lived in a number of ‘safe-houses’ before moving to the relative safety of Liliesleaf Farm in October 1961.

He used the alias of a former client – David Motsamayi, as an undercover name, and lived in the outbuildings behind the farmhouse disguised as the caretaker
Whilst there, builders and painters renovated the main house and extended the outbuildings around him.

Shortly after his arrival at Liliesleaf farm, Arthur Goldreich, who was a white SACP member, and unknown to the security police at the time, moved in with his family.
He acted as a front for the clandestine meetings that would take place between the ANC and members of the Congress Alliance, which was a coalition of anti-apartheid organisations led by the ANC.

The police outside the entrance gate to Liliesleaf Farm in Rivonia, Johannesburg, during their raid on the ANC on Thursday 11th July 1963.


Mandela left South Africa illegally in January 1962, looking for support from foreign governments to implement the ANC’s plans, as well as getting military training in Morocco and Ethiopia. After arriving back in South Africa, Mandela traveled to Durban where he reported back on his recent trip into Africa. It was whilst driving back to Johannesburg that he was arrested by South African security forces, acting on a tip-off, near Howick, Natal on August 5th, 1962. He went on trial at the Old Synagogue in Pretoria on 15th October, 1962 – charged with leaving the country without a passport and inciting workers to strike. He was found guilty on 7th November 1962, and sentenced to five years’ imprisonment on Robben Island.
The two 'navigators' on the table allow visitors to interface with 3D displays on the ceiling


Police started closing in on the leaders of the banned ANC, and a number of activists – who knew of the existence of the secret hideaway, had been arrested.
A new safe house had been difficult to find, but it was decided to hold a final meeting at Lil’s Place (the name used by those involved!) on Thursday 11th July 1963.

On the same afternoon a number of policemen and their dogs, hidden in a laundry delivery van with “Trade Steam Pressers” branding, raided Liliesleaf Farm.

They surrounded the buildings and arrested Rusty Bernstein, Denis Goldberg, Arthur Goldreich, Bob Hepple, Ahmed Kathrada, Govan Mbeki, Raymond Mhlaba and the ANC leader of the time, Walter Sisulu.

Countless documents and papers, including the ‘Plan of Action for Operation Mayibuye’ – the MK plan for guerrilla warfare in South Africa, were confiscated. These formed the bulk of the prosecution’s case at the upcoming Rivonia trial.
In his book, “Long Walk to Freedom”, Mandela says: “In one fell swoop, the police had captured the entire high command of Umkhonto we Sizwe.” A number of other arrests followed.

The outbuildings at Liliesleaf Farm where Nelson Mandela and other black ANC members lived


There was no way of linking Mandela to the arrests at Liliesleaf Farmas as he was serving his 5 year prison sentence on Robben Island. Shortly after being sent to prison, he asked his lawyers to pass on a message that his diary and documents, that he had left behind at Liliesleaf Farm, had to go! He was later told that this had been done. Arthur Goldreich and Harold Wolpe bribed a young prison guard, escaped from Marshall Square in Johannesburg and fled the country. Charges against Bob Hepple were withdrawn after he agreed to turn State witness, but, with his wife, fled the country on his release. Nelson Mandela was transferred from Robben Island to Pretoria Local police station, without knowing about the raid on Liliesleaf Farm. Police had found his incriminating diary and documents hidden in a coal bunker outside the kitchen of the farm house, and charged him along with the other defendants. On the 9th October 1963, Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Denis Goldberg, Govan Mbeki, Ahmed Kathrada, Lionel “Rusty” Bernstein, Raymond Mhlaba, James Kantor, Elias Motsoaledi and Andrew Mlangeni were all charged with ‘sabotage and conspiracy’. If found guilty they faced the supreme penalty of death by hanging!
The small thatched outbuilding at Liliesleaf, in which all of the ANC's high command were attending a meeting, when the police raided


Sentence was passed on Friday 12th June, 1964, and eight of the accused, Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Denis Goldberg, Govan Mbeki, Ahmed Kathrada, Raymond Mhlaba, Elias Motsoaledi and Andrew Mlangeni were all sentenced to life imprisonment. Lionel “Rusty” Bernstein, despite having helped draft the MK constitution, was acquitted in October and James Kantor acquitted in December 1963. The seven black prisoners, Mandela, Sisulu, Mbeki, Kathrada, Mhlaba, Motsoaledi and Mlangeni and were imprisoned on Robben Island. Goldberg, who was the only white, was imprisoned in Pretoria Central Prison. The men served between 22 and 27 years in prison. Mandela was the last prisoner to be released on 11th February, 1990.
The 'Africa Hinterland Safari' truck that smuggled tons of weapons for uMkhonto-we-Sizwe, hidden in special compartments under the passengers' seats.


An interesting display that is not directly linked to the raid, is an old Bedford truck that belonged to Africa Hinterland Safaris.
The company, which operated between 1986 and 1993 as an overland safari company, was a front for smuggling arms into South Africa for the ANC’s armed wing, uMkhonto we Sizwe.

Each time a truck crossed the border into South Africa, it carried with it a ton of weapons covertly hidden in special compartments under the unsuspecting passengers’ seats.
In 1990, operations moved to South Africa, and shorter trips were offered to Botswana and Zimbabwe, which meant a faster turnover, and therefore more weapons delivered!
Not only did Africa Hinterland dupe customs and the security forces, but they also deceived their fare paying passengers.

In keeping with the intrigue of Liliesleaf Farm, it is believed that 40 tons of AK47’s, limpet mines, grenades, pistols, explosives and ammunition were smuggled into the country using this cloak-and-dagger method!

Cedric Café at Liliesleaf is licensed to sell beer and wine and serves some very good light meals.


Liliesleaf Museum has a licensed restaurant called ‘Cedric’s Café’ which serves some tasty light meals and a beer or a glass of wine.
‘Cedric’ is a code name that some people used for Liliesleaf Farm.
It’s open during the same times that Liliesleaf is open, and you can get to it without paying the Liliesleaf Museum entrance fee.

Liliesleaf Museum 7 George Avenue (Between Rietfontein and Cowley Roads) Rivonia Liliesleaf Trust website

Page originally created : 21st October 2013.

Whilst every attempt will be made to keep the information on this website relevant and up to date, we accept no responsibility for consequences arising from errors or omissions.
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