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The Liliesleaf Farm museum in Rivonia has been closed. Picture: THULANI MBELE
The Liliesleaf Farm museum in Rivonia has been closed. Picture: THULANI MBELE

Liliesleaf Farm museum, famous for housing ANC freedom fighters during apartheid, has closed after it failed to account for an R8.1m donation.

The sport, arts & culture ministry said in a statement on Thursday that the management of the historic site in Rivonia, Johannesburg, also failed to release a forensic report that looked into the funds.

The museum closed its doors on Tuesday. 

The department said it had provided Liliesleaf with R70m in funding over 13 years, and that for the 2020/2021 financial year an additional R1.8m was budgeted for the trust.

“All this is being done against an understanding of the historical significance and contribution of Liliesleaf to the liberation of our country,” said departmental spokesperson Masechaba Khumalo.

Khumalo said in 2015 the department entered into a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with Liliesleaf Trust to upgrade and enhance the facility’s exhibition infrastructure, which would cost R9m.

The first tranche of R8.1m was transferred to the trust.

“The remaining R900,000 could not be honoured due to failure of Liliesleaf Trust to account on the initial payment of R8.1m, an obligation spelt out in the MOA between the department and Liliesleaf Trust. In terms of PFMA [Public Finance Management Act] section 38, government cannot continue funding an institution that fails to account for public funds that it receives from government,” said Khumalo.

In May, minister of sport, arts & culture Nathi Mthethwa escalated the failure of the trust’s CEO, Nick Wolpe, to report and account for the R8.1m to the Liliesleaf board, led by former president Kgalema Motlanthe.

The board promised to hire forensic investigators to look into the matter and provide a report to the department.

But Khumalo said the department is yet to receive the report.

“Liliesleaf Trust is ineligible to receive yearly operational funds from [the department] since the site has not been designated as a declared cultural institution under the Cultural Institutions Act and a schedule 3A public entity under the PFMA.

“Numerous suggestions in this regard by government have not been found favourable by the trust. However, they refused to be declared, preferring to remain independent and self-sufficient,” said Khumalo.

Wolpe said on  Wednesday he had taken the decision to close the museum after his failed attempts to get assistance from provincial and national government offices.

He said a WhatsApp text he sent to Gauteng premier David Makhura was ignored.

Wolpe also said he had submitted a report to the department in 2015 but it was rejected on the basis that it did not “speak to the MOA”.

“[The department] is misleading with facts. That R8.1m they are going on about today was used on operational matters at the museum and I accept that it was not used for what was stipulated in the MOA, but operational issues. They rejected it and they wanted us to resubmit another report.

“I was not willing to purge myself. In fact, the original plan of entering into an MOA was mainly to address operational budget. A second report was prepared in 2020. The question the [department] should answer is why they waited [so long] to address this matter of R8.1m,” said Wolpe.   



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