Rivonia remembered


President Jacob Zuma has called on South Africans to ensure that the story of Liliesleaf Farm, where a group of political activists was arrested in 1963, is told in full for the benefit of current and future generations.

Speaking at an award ceremony last night to remember the stalwarts, Zuma said the Liliesleaf Farm arrest was one of the important milestones in the country’s liberation struggle, adding that government regarded the farm as important part of the liberation history, the state BuaNews agency reports.

Yesterday marked the 48th anniversary of the 1963 arrests at the farm, which led to eight of the 10 accused – including former President Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Govan Mbeki, Andrew Mlangeni and Ahmed Kathrada – being sentenced to life imprisonment for sabotage. While Mandela was not at the house during the arrests, he subsequently became accused number one and for his role in the formation of the ANC’s military wing, Umkhonto Wesizwe (MK), which marks its 50th anniversary this year. Kathrada, Mlangeni, Denis Goldberg and Mandela are the only four surviving members of the group.

Last night, Zuma said the events that followed the trial made South Africa what it is today. “Ours is a society which is a model for many countries, especially those in conflict … it is this society that those who used Liliesleaf Farm as a place for meetings and hide-out hoped to achieve. “We owe it to them and the many sacrifices they have made to preserve this heritage and ensure that it is used to heal our nation and bring unity and social cohesion,” he said.

He said the Department of Arts and Culture had decided to declare the farm a National Heritage Site to make sure that the heritage contained in the farm was properly preserved. “Those who worked and held meetings at the farm were convinced that the goal of a united, free and prosperous South Africa was possible, hence they took practical decisions to ensure that it is achieved,” added Zuma.

Mandela, who could not attend last night’s ceremony, said through a written message that the anniversary should be used to honour and remember all those who laid down their lives in the fight against apartheid. “At that time, we were not the ones on trial by the system so we must honour and remember those who fought it,” Mandela said.

Goldberg said the events of 1963 should always be used to build and unite the country. “We said we need unity and vision and we all decided to put our differences [aside] and I ask you Comrade President [Zuma] that in our fight against poverty today, we adhere to this vision of unity and building our country.”