The Experience of Apartheid

 

The Leaders and Formators programme has included a brief immersion module to introduce the participants to the reality of Apartheid that existed in South Africa from 1948 until the early 1990s.  The first place that the Brothers visited was Liliesleaf Farm.

Recognised as one of South Africa’s leading heritage sites, Liliesleaf opened to the public in June 2008 and has since attracted thousands of local and international visitors, eager to understand and engage with a pivotal period in South Africa’s liberation struggle. The museum pays testimony to the many lives that changed the political landscape of this country and through its educational programmes, appeals to younger audiences to face today’s challenges with creative enthusiasm.

In 1961, Liliesleaf Farm in Rivonia was purchased by Arthur Goldreich and Harold Wolpe as headquarters for the underground Communist Party and a safe house for political fugitives. The purchase was made using South African Communist Party funds. Nelson Mandela needed a safe place from which to operate, and lived there under the assumed name of David Motsamayi as a worker in blue overalls employed by the owner to look after the farm.

On 11 July 1963, security police raided the farm and captured 19 members of the underground, charging them with sabotage. They were meeting in the thatched room, and were stunned by the raid.

George Mellis, the young son of the owner of the Rivonia Caravan Park, which lay opposite the entrance to Winston Avenue leading to the farm, saw cars coming and going and people of various races meeting and greeting each other. In those days that was sufficiently unusual for him to tell his family, and a string of reports, coincidences and rumours, and an informer in the military wing, led to the police raid.

The activists had already decided to move to another safe location, and this was to be the final meeting in the farmhouse. Nelson Mandela was already in prison, serving a sentence of several years for relatively minor offences, having been arrested the previous year. The police found documents during the raid that had been hidden in a coal bunker incriminating Mandela. As a result, he was charged and brought to trial with the others.

The trial, which ran from October 1963 to June 1964, culminated in the imposition of life sentences for eight of the accused.

The visit was an inspiring moment for all where the bravery of those who fought for justice and equality shone throughout the exhibition.

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