Page last updated at 17:31 GMT, Monday, 9 June 2008 18:31 UK

Mandela hideaway restored for all

By Peter Biles
BBC Southern Africa correspondent

Lilliesleaf Farm
The Lilliesleaf Trust bought eight buildings to restore in the complex

A hideaway used by Nelson Mandela when he was a political activist nearly half a century ago has been restored and opened as a museum.

Lilliesleaf Farm in the Rivonia suburb of Johannesburg was a site used by the African National Congress from which to launch its armed struggle against the apartheid state.

But leading members of the ANC were arrested there in 1963, and faced what became known as The Rivonia Trial. Mr Mandela and his colleagues were subsequently sentenced to life imprisonment.

The farm is just half an hour's drive from the centre of Johannesburg, and over the years, the plush suburb of Rivonia has grown up around it.

But back in the 1960s, this was an isolated place. It made Lilliesleaf an ideal "safe house" for members of the ANC's military wing Umkonto we Sizwe .

Nelson Mandela came to live here in 1961 when he was on the run. He used the name "David" and posed as a caretaker and slept in one of the small outhouses.

But 18 months later, the farm was raided by the police, and the ANC's high command was arrested, while advancing the plans for an armed struggle.

Stark reminder

Tour guide Jacqueline Otukile says it is important that Lilliesleaf Farm has been preserved.

"We need to know where Nelson Mandela started the struggle of the South African people," she says.

One of the projects that the Lilliesleaf Trust has been involved in is a search for a gun that Mr Mandela acquired during military training in Addis Ababa - and that he said he buried outside the property.

However, despite intensive investigations at the site, it has not been found.

Over the last four years, Lilliesleaf has been extensively rebuilt as part of its transformation into a heritage site.

But the black-and-white photographs from the 1960s are a stark reminder of the struggle for political freedom.

It is something that South Africans will never be allowed to forget.

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