'Abject' govt failure: Iconic Lilies Leaf Farm Museum closes indefinitely

Lilies Leaf's managers had tried to raise funds earlier this year when it raised the red flag publicly about its struggles, but it says despite its best efforts and support from kind donors, it has not been able to meet its financial obligations.

Liliesleaf Farm Museum. Picture: Facebook.

JOHANNESBURG - The iconic Lilies Leaf Farm in Rivonia, Johannesburg is closing until further notice.

In a statement, the heritage museum said on Wednesday it faced a funding crisis for several years, which has been compounded and exacerbated by the impact of COVID-19 on tourism.

Lilies Leaf's managers tried to raise funds earlier this year when it raised the red flag publicly about its struggles, but it said despite its best efforts and support from kind donors, it was not been able to meet its financial obligations.

Between 1961 and 1963, Liliesleaf served as the secret headquarters and nerve centre of the African National Congress, the South African Communist Party, Umkhonto weSizwe and the Congress Alliance.

On 11 July 1963, the apartheid police, acting on a tip-off, raided the farm and arrested the core of the underground liberation movement leadership. Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Denis Goldberg, Govan Mbeki, Ahmed Kathrada, Raymond Mhlaba, Elias Motsoaledi and Andrew Mlangeni along with others were eventually put on trial to face charges of 193 counts of sabotage against the state.

James Kantor and Lionel ‘Rusty’ Bernstein were also arrested but were acquitted as the other eight were found guilty and sentenced to life in prison.

FAILED BY GOVERNMENT?

Lilies Leaf did not mince its words as it placed blame on the Arts and Culture Department, led by Minister Nathi Mthethwa, for what managers called 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.

"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," it said in its statement on Wednesday.

In a desperate plea to save the museum just a few days ago, Lilies Leaf Trust CEO Nicholas Wolpe said he reached out to Premier David Makhura via WhatsApp to ask for government's urgent intervention. He posted his message on his Facebook page.

Eyewitness News contacted the Arts, Sports and Culture Department for comment but had not received a reply at the time of publishing this article. We will post an update once it has been received.

Members of the public reacted with dismay at the news of the closure.

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