The Liliesleaf Archive Research Site

Liliesleaf is a site of memory and learning situated in Rivonia, Johannesburg. Once the secret headquarters of the liberation movement and Umkhonto we Sizwe, today Liliesleaf is one of South Africa’s foremost national heritage sites. Here visitors are invited to engage with and reflect on South Africa’s history of resistance, in particular the struggle waged against the apartheid state.

Central to the success of Liliesleaf as a site of memory and learning is the Liliesleaf Archive. Established in 2009, the Archive is the repository for a wealth of historical materials from 1954 to 1994.

Besides archival items of historical worth, Liliesleaf also has a significant oral history collection. We have spent a great deal of time capturing stories and memories of anti-apartheid activists on film, and take great pride in the fact that the Liliesleaf Archive is home to rarely told human stories of the national liberation movements, international solidarity, and the complexities of life in South Africa during apartheid.


Collections Summaries

Wolpe Collection

The collection is comprised of Harold Wolpe’s papers as well as his personal collection of resource materials such as banned publications, pamphlets, academic papers focusing on apartheid, education, sociology, and economics. James Kantor’s papers, AnnMarie Wolpe’s papers and a small collection donated by Norman Wolpe are also part of this collection, comprising a collection of newspaper clippings, bank receipts and manuscripts that focus on the raid on Liliesleaf, the Rivonia trial, the escape from Marshall Square Police Station and personal accounts of persons involved in these events.

Notable items in the collection include:

  • Handwritten biographies of the Rivonia Trialists
  • A copy of “I am prepared to die” published by Christian Action
  • Reel to reel audio recording of an interview of AnnMarie Wolpe upon her arrival in England
  • Dakar declaration
  • Immigration papers of Harold Wolpe and the Wolpe family
  • James Kantor’s Union passport and certificate from the Union Defence Force 1946
  • UN Nations report on the 1964 Trial ( loose pages)


The Percy Yutar Collection

The collection is mainly comprised of press cuttings relevant to the Rivonia Trial, Soweto uprisings and Percy Yutar’s legal career. The collection essentially highlights Yutar’s meticulous methodology with regard to the collections content and to the physical presentation thereof. The collections also reflect Yutar’s choice of articles, notably that the clippings are primarily collected from South African newspapers.

Notable items in this collection are:

  • Rivonia Trial press cuttings
  • Soweto uprisings press cuttings


Liliesleaf oral history Collection

This collection is comprised of filmed interviews and transcripts. The collection dates back to the onset of the Liliesleaf Legacy Programme and forms the basis of many of the exhibitions at the historical site.

The collection includes material relating to the planning process, building restoration, exhibition development and archive development.

The collection also includes interviews with key personalities linked to the development of the site.  The footage was primarily filmed on DVCAM and Betacam and was later transferred to DVD. As of recently, the content is hosted on a cloud computing server in an effort to assist with transcription and to promote access. Some of the interviews were filmed directly on to memory cards. The NAS server therefore helps to consolidate the collection and ensures that it is safely kept in one location.


Ben Turok Collection

The Turok collection is a very useful resource for researchers and others with an interest in  ANC and SACP histories. Items in this collection can be categorised as follows: Books by Ben Turok (written or containing articles or edited by him), VHS/DVD/CD/cassettes/transcripts, rare books, newspaper clippings, journal publications and photos.

Notable items in the collection include:

  • The Tambo papers, which include research and interviews conducted by Ben Turok in preparation for writing OR Tambo’s biography
  • Research for ORT biography
  • Pre-1966 ANC papers
  • South African Treason Trial: an out of print copy of the book containing signatures of most of the treason triallists
  • Photographic negative of the picture used for the cover of the book: South African Treason Trial
  • Central Inner Party Bulletin
  • Reader guide to the Marxist classics
  • Preparing for Power: uncensored version
  • An almost complete set of New Agenda
  • Operation Mayibuye
  • Correspondence between Ben and Mary


Norman Levy Special Collection

The collection consists of Norman Levy’s personal resource materials, documenting current affairs from the 1980s to the mid-90s, and notably includes the following:

  • Audio cassettes with interviews that Norman conducted with other political activists, or recordings made during political rallies
  • Video cassettes containing television programmes or inserts that Norman recorded from national and international broadcasts from the mid 1980s to mid 1990s, focusing on the last days of apartheid, the period of transition, reform prose and activities of the new government.
  • The African Communist and Sechaba  publication collections, which are stored in the Ben Turok Collection
  • Rare footage: Come Back Africa
  • Isitwalandwe
  • Mazimbu
  • Amakommanisis
  • ANC weekly news briefings
  • Mike Louw interview (one of the NIS representatives involved in the negotiations between the National Party and the ANC in the late 1980s)


Neville Alexander Collection

The collection consists of two arch lever files containing papers, short biographies and newspaper articles, most of which are in a foreign language (German).


Bram Fischer Collection

The collection consists of legal documents with handwritten notes from the Rivonia Trial. It is believed that the notes were made by Bram Fischer, who led the defence team in the Rivonia Trial. The collection also includes newspaper clippings for the ‘Red Trials’, which were the trials of various individuals charged by the State under the Suppression of Communism Act.

Notable items in this collection include:

  • Signed copy of Bram Fischer’s biography
  • Newspaper clippings for the ‘Red Trials’
  • Court documents of Ms Jean Middleton


Joel Joffe Collection

The collection is comprised of newspaper clippings and legal documents that  focus on the raid on Liliesleaf and the Rivonia Trial.

Notable items in this collection include:

  • Newspaper clippings
  • Map/plan of 10 Terrace Road
  • Handwritten notes on the Rivonia trial
  • Indictment Number 2 : The State vs Nelson Mandela: requests for particulars
  • The State’s reply


Ronnie Kasrils Collection

Notable items in this collection include:

  • Travel bag artefacts belonging to Alex Moumbaris
  • Pen gun
  • Pamphlet
  • Collaboration accord between the ANC and MPLA Workers party and the government of the People’s Republic of Angola


Govan Mbeki Collection

Notable items in this collection include:

  • Publication by Moeletsi Mbeki
  • Manuscript and related notes for the publication Then and After
  • Edited manuscript: Resistance Politics in Port Elizabeth


Penton Street Collection

This is a collection from ACTSA (Action for Southern Africa), the successor organisation to the Anti-Apartheid Movement in the UK. Between 1978 and 1984, 28 Penton Street was the London headquarters of the ANC and the nerve centre for coordinating international solidarity against the apartheid regime in South Africa.

Notable items in this collection include:

  • Penton Street library collection
  • Rare books
  • Anti-Apartheid Movement newspaper collection.
  • ACTSA research resource materials


Umkhonto we Sizwe Collection

Notable items in this collection include:

  • Published paper: Armed and Trained – Nelson Mandela’s 1962 Military Mission as Commander in Chief of Umkhonto we Sizwe and provenance for his buried Makarov Pistol, by Garth Benneyworth ( published in South African Historical Journal 63 (1) page 78 – 101)
  • Tape containing interviews conducted with MK operatives: Aaron Montsho Funeral, 2015


Rare Books Collection

The collection is comprised of books and pamphlets that have been deemed too valuable to be stored within the Archive’s library collection, based on the following criteria. It is expected that this collection will continue to grow as the archive acquires more materials.


  • If item is out print
  • A complete set of recurring publishing
  • Evidence of a memento – from an occasion of national or organisational importance


Africa Hinterland Safari Collection:

Africa Hinterland was an overland travel company formed in the UK during the early 1980s that was used as a front to smuggle arms to South Africa to assist MK in their military struggle against the apartheid regime. It was founded by exiled members of the ANC and made over 40 trips into South Africa. The Bedford truck was used to carry weapons on each trip in secret compartments welded under the truck’s passenger seats. The collection complements the Bedford truck that is on display in the MK exhibition on site.

Notable items in this collection include:

  • Secret compartment plans for the Bedford truck
  • Drivers’ logs
  • Safari pamphlets


London Recruits Collection

This collection contains stories of the secret activities of foreign volunteers who worked covertly to assist the ANC during apartheid.  The volunteers were mostly young UK communists, socialists and Trotskyists who smuggled leaflets and cassettes from abroad into South Africa in an effort to counter the South African government’s propaganda machine. (The collection is named after a film by Gordon Main and a publication, “London Recruits: the Secret War against Apartheid”, edited and complied by Ken Keable with an introduction by Ronnie Kasrils.)

Notable items:

  • Newspaper clippings
  • Photographs
  • Pamphlets relating to the London Recruits


Naidoo Family Collection

This collection showcases the involvement of five generations of the Naidoo family in the liberation struggle.

Notable items in this collection include:

  • Photographs
  • Newspaper clippings relating to different members of the family
  • A bound collection of the publication ‘The Resister’
  • Roy Naidoo’s funeral book with photographs by Eli Weinberg