Taking place between October 1963 and the following June, the Rivonia Trial led to the imprisonment of Nelson Mandela and his co-accused. They were convicted of sabotage and sentenced to life imprisonment. The trial is named after Rivonia, a Johannesburg suburb where Lilieslief Farm is situated. This former farm is where African National Congress activists had gone to ground and where they were arrested by the State security police. It is synonymous with the birthplace of the armed struggle against apartheid through the creation of the uMkhonto weSizwe (MK) unit.
Today, Lilisleaf is a heritage site and museum of apartheid resistance. Cedric’s Cafe, on the premises, is so called because liberation activists had code-named the farm "Cedric". The cafe is open to the public -- patrons need only pay an admission fee if they opt for a tour of the historical site.
On arrival, visitors are shown a 12-minute introductory film in the Liberation Centre. An exhibit named uMkhonto weSizwe (MK) and the Africa Hinterland Safari Truck explores the history of the ANC's military wing. It reveals the inner workings of the Africa Hinterland company and other covert MK operations. Africa Hinterland was founded as an operator of overland tours. These were popular with British, Australian and Kiwi youth visiting the so-called ‘frontline states’, the name given to the postcolonial neighbours of apartheid South Africa.
Under the auspices of then MK Chief-of-Staff Joe Slovo, the company was originally registered in Britain. Africa Hinterland operated a converted Bedford truck whose routes extended as far south as Cape Town. Luggage and camping equipment were stored under the Bedford's passenger seats, but with access only from outside the truck body. Unbeknown to South African border officials, the cavities went an additional 10cm deeper along the entire 5m length of the passenger section, but were accessible only from under the passenger seats.
In the compartments under the bottoms of unsuspecting tourists, MK is estimated to have smuggled up to 30 tons of arms into South Africa between 1987 and the early 1990s. This accounted for as much as 90% of all weapons brought into the country in the span leading up to the negotiated end of apartheid.
In Rooms 2 - 5 of the Lilisleaf exhibits, you may probe the many theories about how the police discovered that ANC leaders were hiding out there. Rooms 6 - 9 cover three devastating political trials of the 1960s, the Rivonia trial, the Little Rivonia trial and the trial of anti-apartheid hero Bram Fischer. Rooms 10 - 13 were the living quarters of "David Motsamayi" aka Nelson Mandela, Lilisleaf's most famous resident.
Round out your tour on the other side with a look at the thatched cottage. This humble structure hosted many a meeting of anti-apartheid fighters, and it was here that the police made the arrests leading to the Rivonia Trial.