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Liliesleaf

Liliesleaf
Liliesleaf was the site responsible for breaking the resounding political silence of the 1960s and represents a beacon on the landscape of national and international memory. A farm of 28-acres, Liliesleaf had been purchased in 1961 by the South African Communist Party as a meeting place for the Politburo. Liliesleaf, 12 miles from the Johannesburg city centre, was purchased because it was in a secluded and isolated area of Rivonia at that time.

In 1960 South Africa was in the grip of an overwhelmingly oppressive apartheid regime and on 21 March 1960, a peaceful protest against apartheid laws resulted in the Security Police killing 67 unarmed demonstrators and injuring over 180. This was The Sharpeville Massacre, and many of those killed and injured were women and children. There was an immediate uproar amongst the oppressed and the following week saw demonstrations, protest marches, strikes and riots around the country. The Communist Party (in 1950) and the African National Congress (in 1960) had been banned and were forced to go underground. The events of Sharpeville were seminal within themselves as they forced the ANC to move away from passive resistance to armed struggle. The purchase of Liliesleaf coincided with the ANCs shift to armed struggle.

It was on 11 July 1963 that members of the Security Police raided the farm after an anonymous tip-off that Walter Sisulu was in hiding at Liliesleaf. The leadership that assembled had done so with the intention that this would be their last gathering at Liliesleaf and that after discussion about Operation Mayibuye, ironically translated as "The Return", they would relocate. The consequences of the raid were disastrous to the internal struggle and the liberation movement. The raid on Liliesleaf led to the arrest of a number of key leaders of the High Command, stalling the momentum of the liberation struggle in the process. The arrests and subsequent trial however, catapulted South Africa's prevailing socio-political conditions into the international spotlight.

Liliesleaf aims to bring the events that took place in Rivonia over 45 years ago into South Africas current socio-political context by allowing the original infrastructures to recreate the living and working environment at the time of the raid. The restoration process was a collaborative effort between archaeological findings, oral recollections and archival and historical research to document the history of the liberation struggle for current and future generations.

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